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Can Domestic Violence Charges be Dropped in Colorado?

Offered by The Law Office of Kimberly Diego

An experienced defense attorney can protect your rights throughout the process

You’ve been accused of domestic violence in Denver or another community in Colorado. You’ve been arrested and charged. What happens next? Is it possible the prosecutor will drop the charges, perhaps if the alleged victim recants their story?

The short answer is generally “no.” Colorado has a mandatory prosecution rule in domestic violence cases, which means the prosecutor does not have discretion to drop the charges once filed. However, depending on the circumstances, an experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to get your charges dropped or dismissed. That’s why it’s critical that you speak with an attorney who knows Colorado domestic violence law inside and out.

What are domestic violence charges in Colorado?

In Colorado, the definition of domestic violence (DV) is “an act or threatened act of violence upon a person with whom the actor is or has been involved in an intimate relationship.” Domestic violence is not a charge in itself; rather, it’s applied to an underlying crime as a sentence enhancer or aggravator.

Some examples of crimes that can be charged as domestic violence include:

  • Assault
  • Stalking
  • Harassment
  • Child abuse
  • Sexual contact
  • Menacing
  • False imprisonment
  • Elder abuse
  • Sexual assault
  • Violation of a restraining order

However, this is not an exhaustive list. Any crime that includes an element of violence or threat of violence against a current or former spouse or intimate partner can qualify as domestic violence.

What is an intimate relationship for domestic violence purposes?

Domestic violence can be committed against:

  • A current or former spouse
  • A current or former dating partner (boyfriend or girlfriend)
  • A co-parent of a child

Notably, living with someone as a roommate does not in itself qualify as an intimate relationship. In addition, an intimate relationship is not necessarily a sexual relationship (and vice versa).

Is domestic violence a misdemeanor or a felony in Colorado?

Domestic violence can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. If the underlying crime is a felony, such as stalking or first-degree assault, then you will clearly face a felony charge. However, even a crime that is otherwise a misdemeanor can be escalated to a felony under any of the following circumstances:

  • The victim sustained serious bodily injury
  • The victim was sexually assaulted
  • The crime involved harm to a minor
  • You have previous domestic violence convictions

What happens if you’re accused of domestic violence in Colorado?

Because of the sensitive and urgent nature of domestic violence charges, the criminal process moves much faster when domestic violence is involved. First, Colorado has a mandatory arrest rule in domestic violence cases. This means that if the police have probable cause to believe someone committed domestic violence, then they must arrest that person. (In non-DV cases, the police usually have discretion whether to arrest someone or not.)

Second, once you are arrested for domestic violence, the case is put on a fast track. The police must fill out an incident report the same day as the arrest, and you are required to enter an initial plea during the first court hearing.

A domestic violence charge also triggers a mandatory protection order. This is a court order that requires you to stay away from the accuser and to not drink alcohol. The mandatory protection order can theoretically last all the way to the end of your sentence if you are convicted, although the court has discretion to change it.

The mandatory prosecution or “no drop” rule in domestic violence cases

Colorado has a mandatory prosecution rule in domestic violence cases. That means, once a charge is filed, the prosecutor doesn’t have discretion to drop the charges.

This is true even if the alleged victim recants their allegations of domestic violence. The law recognizes that victims of domestic violence change their stories because of family dynamics, financial incentives, or fear. Prosecuting domestic violence is about protecting the whole community, not just the individual victim.

So, even if the alleged victim recants, the charges won’t be dropped, at least not right away. However, in some circumstances, an experienced attorney can get your charges dropped if specific legal criteria are met.

Ultimately, only a judge can authorize your domestic violence charges to be dropped

The only way for a prosecutor to drop a domestic violence charge in Colorado is to state, under oath, that there is not enough evidence to prove the charge beyond reasonable doubt. In those circumstances, the judge can give authorization to drop the charges.

Sometimes, this occurs because the alleged victim recants their story and there is no other evidence available. In other cases, your attorney needs to do additional work to get evidence suppressed, meaning it cannot be used in court. For example, your attorney may be able to argue that:

  • The police did not have probable cause to arrest you (which can suppress anything they discovered during the arrest).
  • The police conducted an illegal search.
  • The evidence against you has been contaminated or altered.

If there is not enough evidence to secure a conviction, then and only then can the charges be dropped. Getting to that point requires an experienced criminal defense lawyer who understands Colorado criminal law and procedure. It also requires a thorough, precise legal strategy. That’s why your choice of attorney is so important.

Protect your rights with an experienced domestic violence defense lawyer

Again, a domestic violence charge is a serious matter, and you need a rigorous defense right from the start. An experienced attorney can make all the difference. The right lawyer will get to the bottom of what happened and build a winning legal strategy on your behalf. Depending on the situation, that might involve fighting to get the charges reduced, dropped, or dismissed, or it may mean going to trial and fighting for a “Not Guilty” verdict.

In addition to fighting the criminal charges themselves, an experienced domestic violence attorney can deal with the restraining order and other collateral effects of the DV charge. The right lawyer will approach your case with the sensitivity and compassion you deserve while relentlessly advocating for you in negotiations, pre-trial motions, and, if necessary, before a judge and jury.

If you’ve been charged with domestic violence in Denver or anywhere in Colorado, don’t hesitate to protect your rights. Contact an experienced domestic violence defense attorney today.

Criminal Defense
The Law Office of Kimberly Diego
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The Law Office of Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense firm serving Denver and all of Colorado. Attorney Kimberly Diego has extensive experience in criminal law and believes every...