Domestic Violence

What does domestic violence mean in colorado?

Domestic Violence is not its own distinct crime in Colorado.  Instead, it is a sentence enhancer that can be added to another crime.  Colorado has a very broad definition of domestic violence.  A crime may be classified as domestic violence if the prosecution can show that it occurred between persons in an "intimate relationship," and if the crime was used "as a method of coercion, control, punishment, intimidation, or revenge."  An intimate relationship in Colorado includes "spouses, former spouses, 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."  It is also domestic violence if the crime involved an act or threatened act of violence in an intimate relationship.

Crimes like assault fall within the definition of domestic violence automatically.  But the definition also includes crimes that are not traditionally considered violent.  Under Colorado's definition, crimes like theft, property damage, and burglary can be considered domestic violence.

A conviction for domestic violence results in a mandatory domestic violence treatment program, unless the person is sentenced to state prison.  Additionally, a fourth conviction for misdemeanor domestic violence can be enhanced to a class 5 felony.  One of the biggest consequences of a domestic violence conviction is it may result in the inability to possess firearms.  For this and other reasons, a domestic violence conviction can be catastrophic to a person's career.  

What if the alleged victim in the case does not want to press charges?

In Colorado, the designated victim does not get to choose whether a prosecution occurs.  Only the district attorney decides whether to press charges.  It is not uncommon for the prosecution to pursue charges against the victim's wishes.  Many prosecutors will also continue to pursue charges even if the alleged victim comes forward and admits to fabricating or exaggerating the reported crime.  If you are charged with domestic violence, you need a good criminal defense attorney regardless of the victim's position.

Domestic violence is taken very seriously by judges and prosecutors in Colorado, and it is unlawful for a prosecutor to plea bargain a case to a charge without the domestic violence designation unless it is apparent that they cannot prove the charge at trial.  If you want to avoid being convicted of domestic violence, then you need a criminal defense attorney who is a skilled negotiator and who understands how to thoroughly investigate the facts to convince the prosecution to change the charge or dismiss the case. 

If you are a named victim and you do not want the case to be prosecuted, then you can also benefit from an attorney to help you voice your position to the district attorney and the judge.   

What should i expect if i am charged with domestic violence?

If you are charged with domestic violence, then the judge may issue an order that prohibits you from having contact with the named victim.  This can result in the loss of housing, the loss of the ability to see children, and many other severe consequences.  This may happen even if the victim opposes the order.  A skilled criminal defense attorney can help you modify this order and regain the basic foundations of your life.

If there is a no contact order in place, then you can be penalized for having contact with the victim even if the victim initiates contact or comes to your residence.  In some cases the named victim may use this power to retaliate against the defendant.  Navigating a circumstance where the victim repeatedly attempts to make contact with you is difficult without a skilled defense attorney.

Additionally, it is not uncommon for prosecutors to be stubborn in their approach to domestic violence allegations and for judges to impose harsh sentences.  You may feel like you are considered to be guilty and the accuser is considered to be a victim prior to any evidence in court or a conviction.  A defense attorney who is experienced in domestic violence allegations can help to change the perception of the prosecutor and the judge.  If it is necessary to go to trial, then you need a skilled criminal defense attorney to protect against a conviction.   


The prosecution will often try to simply a relationship to designate a person as the victim and the defendant as the abuser.  The reality is that human relationships are usually much more complex.  In some cases, the person charged with domestic violence may be the victim of lengthy abuse in the relationship but then has the misfortune of being the person arrested and charged.

Thomas Cantley has represented both men and women in numerous domestic violence cases.  Thomas has experience navigating the complex and sensitive issues that arise in domestic violence cases, and has won multiple cases at trial.  Thomas has secured dozens of dismissals of domestic violence cases, and he has acquitted his clients of both felony and misdemeanor accusations at trial, including Second Degree Assault, Third Degree Assault, Harassment, Felony and Misdemeanor Menacing, First Degree Burglary, Stalking, and even First Degree Murder.