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What is a Domestic Violence Enhancement and How Does it Work in Colorado?

Domestic violence allegations are always taken seriously in our region. In fact, Colorado has some of the most strict domestic laws in the entire country. We live in a mandatory arrest state for domestic violence allegations. However, unlike in some other jurisdictions, the state does not have a specific domestic violence statute. Instead, domestic violence charges are subject to an ‘enhancement’. In this article, our Greeley domestic violence defense attorney explains the most important things to understand about domestic violence enhancements in Colorado. 

Colorado Law on Domestic Violence: Understanding Sentence Enhancements

Colorado does not treat domestic violence as an independent criminal offense. Domestic violence is viewed as an “enhancer” or “aggravator” for the purposes of criminal sentencing in the state. In effect, this means that domestic violence will increase the penalties associated with the underlying criminal charges. 

For example, imagine that a defendant was arrested for and charged with assault under Colorado Revised Statutes § 18-3-204. That offense is a Class 1 misdemeanor carrying maximum penalties of up to 18 months in prison and a $1,000 fine. If the third degree assault is domestic violence, that is considered to be aggravated and prosecutors will seek the more severe penalties. 

Domestic Violence Enhancement Can Apply to Any Criminal Charge in Colorado

The majority of domestic violence charges in Colorado involve allegations of assault, battery, stalking, or criminal harassment. However, it is important to emphasize that Colorado’s domestic violence enhancement is not restricted to any particular class of criminal offenses. In fact, the domestic violence enhancement can apply to any criminal charges filed in Colorado. It could be added to most serious criminal charges (homicide) and municipal offenses, such as crimes against property. 

Defining Domestic Violence in Colorado

Under Colorado law (Colorado Revised Statutes § 18-6-800.3), domestic violence is a crime perpetrated upon or against a person whom with the accused shares an “intimate relationship.” For the purposes of its domestic violence statutes, Colorado defines the term intimate relationship in a relatively broad manner. It includes but is not limited to: 

  • Spouses; 
  • Former spouses; 
  • Co-parents; 
  • Unmarried couples; and
  • Anyone else in a “dating-like” relationship. 

The parties do not need to currently (or previously) live together in order for a domestic violence charge to file in Colorado. As long as there is an “intimate relationship” as defined by Colorado law, a prosecutor can include a domestic violence enhancement along with whatever misdemeanor or felony criminal charge has been filed. 

Schedule a Confidential Consultation With Our Criminal Defense Lawyer

At Bruno Lilly Legal, PLLC, our Greeley criminal defense lawyer is an experienced, future-focused, and zealous advocate for clients. If you have any specific questions about domestic violence enhancement in Colorado, we are here to help. Reach out to us by phone at 720-340-1373 or send us a message to arrange a completely confidential consultation. With a law office in Greeley, we provide domestic defense representation throughout the region.