In Colorado, there is a statute that says if a police officer has probable cause of a domestic violence (DV) offense, then s/he must arrest the person and bring them to jail.  CRS 18-6-803.6(1); see also 16-3-105(1.5) and 18-6-800.3(1).  This law has been interpreted to mean that if the police are called in on a domestic violence complaint, then someone has to go to jail.  Usually, this is the person who did not call the police (race to the 911 call), the person least injured, or the man. 

Another reading is that if the evidence is equivocal, then there is not probable cause and no one should go to jail.  Police can separate the parties and provide contact information if further contact ensues.  A report can be made to the prosecutor and they can decide whether to move forward with charges. 

The statute allows provide police with factors to determine who should be arrested when the evidence is not clear: 1) prior complaints of DV, 2) relative severity of injuries, 3) likelihood of future injuries to each person, 4) the possibility that one of the people acted in self-defense.  CRS 18-6-803.6(2). 

            Domestic violence charges have many collateral consequences, like loss of gun privileges, difficulty leasing an apartment, difficulty getting a job, and public shaming.  These cases can result in deportation for non-citizens.

Domestic violence is defined in the Colorado Revised Statutes (18-6-800.3(1))as:

  • “an act or threatened act of violence upon a person with whom the actor is or has been in an intimate relationship.”
  • Intimate relationship includes a spouse, former spouse, past or present unmarried couples, or persons who are both the parents of the same child regardless of whether the persons have been married or have lived together at any time. CRS 18-6-800.3(2)
    • this has been interpreted to mean any two people that have been intimate with each other, certainly any sexual relationship, but also any relationship that involved any level of sexual relations, including kissing.
    • In People v. Disher, 224 P.3d 254 (Colo. 2010), the Court found there were 3 factors to determine intimate relationship: 1) length of relationship, 2) nature of relationship, 3) frequency of interaction of the parties. This means that a one night stand, followed weeks or months later, by a crime that otherwise fits, is not a domestic violence crime.
  • “domestic violence includes any other crime against a person or against property, including an animal, or any municipal ordinance violation against a person, or against property, including an animal”
    • The property portion of this means the theft or destruction of any property, even your own. Many years ago, an Avalanche goalie won his DV charges because he busted a door in the family home, but did not hurt anyone.  The statute was changed shortly after.
    • Harming a person’s pet or the family pet can be domestic violence.
    • Breaking a phone will be charged both as DV criminal mischief and/ or DV Disruption of Telephone, basically preventing a person from calling 911.
  • “when used as a method of coercion, control, punishment, intimidation, or revenge directed against a person with whom the actor is or has been involved in an intimate relationship.”
    • This section is very important to establish Domestic Violence and is often over-looked.
    • There are cases where at first look, it appears to fit in the domestic violence statute, but the proof does not establish the act was done for coercion, control, punishment or revenge, but instead for a different reason.
    • It is arguable that the language of this section establishes a specific intent element for coercion, control, punishment or revenge. It does not appear this has been litigated.  Voluntary intoxication is a defense to specific intent crimes. 

As with any crime, there are defenses to domestic violence acts or threats.  Self-defense, defense of others, defense of property and provocation can be affirmative defenses to the charges.  This means that if there is any evidence to support the defense and proper notice is given, then the prosecution must disprove the defense beyond a reasonable doubt.

            I have represented numerous, if not thousands of people on domestic violence charges in Boulder, Broomfield, Longmont, Adams County, Jefferson County, Denver, Larimer County, Colorado Springs, Gilpin County, Eagle County and through-out Colorado.  I will work with you to learn what happened, find any defenses, investigate to determine the truth and the value of the prosecution case and present the case at trial the best way possible.  I have worked out many valuable plea bargains, argued for and won dismissals, and tried cases to juries with excellent results.

            It does not matter if you were arrested because the police thought someone had to go to jail.  We will find the best way through the mess.  Beware of the deferred sentence deal on your first DV case, it is often the worst thing you can do, especially when you are innocent.

            No matter the facts, I recommend that you say nothing to the police without a lawyer.  Just say, “I want a lawyer.”  Remember, there is nothing you can say to the police today, that you cannot tell them tomorrow with a lawyer.

On June 11, 2018, we received official notice exonerating my client from the university office of institutional equity at University of Colorado - Colorado Springs (UCCS).  She was on her way out of the country for several weeks to represent her country in athletics when she got the good news.  She can enjoy the trip knowing that she will not lose her scholarship and will be able to graduate without “responsible for sexual misconduct” on her transcript.

A few months ago, I was called by parents concerned with how UCCS was handling an allegation of sexual assault.  They wanted someone to jump on the case and protect their child.  These cases need immediate work due to strict timing issues. 

Here, my client got very intoxicated after exams.  She was black out drunk and her friends brought her to bed, gave her aspirin, Gatorade and a bucket to vomit into.  She was not able to take care of herself and she relied on others.  One of the others was her girlfriend.  She was sober.  She is bigger and stronger than my client.  And she has full control of her mental and physical abilities.  She also took on the role of caretaker, in a position of trust.  They kiss and fool around and both sleep in the bed until morning.  They sleep together the next evening as well, when both are sober.

Client realizes from her severe intoxication that she must deal with some prior trauma.  Alcohol is not the answer.  It is harming her growth and athletic ability.  She decides to get into therapy, quit drinking and end a destructive, co-dependent and enabling relationship.  This happens a week or so later.

The girlfriend is not happy about the end of this relationship. She is also dating someone else.  This person hates client because she worries client will take her girlfriend back.  This person has struck client violently, causing a concussion, during team practice. 

A month or two later, the girlfriend decides to report a sexual assault to UCCS.  The report is a forced penetration claim – this equates to rape with force, a severe felony under state law if the case gets into the criminal courts. 

So, a sober person goes into the room of a severely drunk person and claims she is forced to penetrate the drunk one she is caretaking.  Here, it is two women.  Can you imagine a sober male student reporting that a blackout drunk girl forced him to penetrate her while he took care of her?  I suspect most would assume he is trying to cover for his bad behavior.  The chance that an investigation would focus on the guilt of the drunk woman is zero.

It may seem this was an easy case. 

But, in Title IX cases, there is no presumption of innocence.  There is no burden of production on the accuser.  Once a claim is made, if you do not defend yourself, you lose.  The burden of proof is by a preponderance (50.1%).  Prior false accusations are not relevant, prior bad behavior by the complainant is not relevant and other similar valid evidence may not be considered.  There is no right to cross examination of any witness, including the accuser.  There is often no hearing, meaning that you do not get to see the testimony or face them.  The school often requires a statement from the accused as to what happened prior to providing any specific information as to what is claimed – here we were only informed of the name, the charge and the approximate date only despite policies requiring specific information.  There is no subpoena power to force a witness to give a statement or provide other evidence.  Although you can have a lawyer, the lawyer has limited or no ability to speak for client or communicate in the case.  Appeal rights are limited and only to specific issues.  AND, all evidence in the Title IX case will be turned over to police and prosecution if requested.

The Title IX investigators have no prior police or criminal investigation experience.  They are trained by Title IX trainers that believe all accusations are true and victims never lie.  The school goal is to avoid scrutiny by the Federal government that could result in withdrawing all Federal funds, including loan guarantees.  If a school cannot get student loan guarantees, they will lose half or more of their students and tuition.

A better system would require clear and convincing evidence and presume a person innocent while allowing for attorney cross examination after investigation by retired police detectives.  Due process requires this as well as other protections. 

Fortunately, here we prevailed. 

On other cases, we have won at appeal (Colorado State University – CSU) or found a way to limit the collateral consequences (University of Colorado – Boulder – CU) or made a deal with University legal counsel after appeal but prior to filing a Federal law suit.  There are times when it is best to accept school consequences to keep the complainant satisfied so a criminal case is never filed.  The worst result is a criminal filing, potentially resulting in Felony Sexual Assault charges with a potential for a lifetime of probation, parole or prison and sex offender registry. 

February 2018 DUI trial win:

My client crashed into the Boulder Creek on his way to Nederland at 3AM after playing pool at the Dark Horse. He found himself upside down, belted and underwater. Fortunately he was able to extricate himself and swim to safety.

Once on the shore, my client wanted a cigarette but his lighter was soaked. He had purchased a pint bottle that was in his pocket. Shivering and angry with himself for crashing his brother's car by driving too fast and losing control, he drank half the bottle or more and set it down. The bottle fell in the creek.

His BAC was related to the drinking after driving, not prior to. The jury may have been skeptical of the defense, but they believed in the presumption of innocence until and unless proof of beyond a reasonable doubt shows guilty.

A tough win that saved my client his job, his semester in school and lots of time and money. He learned much simply saving his own life from the creek.