Calling 911 because of a domestic argument sets in motion a series of events that can never be taken back. Law enforcement officers will soon arrive and begin investigating. They will arrest and charge anyone they believe committed the crime of domestic violence. And they don’t need a lot of evidence to make an arrest.
All they need is probable cause, meaning that a reasonable person would believe that the accused probably committed a crime. They do not need to perform a thorough investigation. Typically, the word of one person is enough.
After an arrest, the police send their reports to the local prosecutor who then decides whether domestic charges should be pursued against the accused. The chances of getting domestic violence charges dropped are very slim. However, it can happen.
If anyone knows if domestic violence charges could be dropped in Colorado, it’s Colorado Springs criminal defense lawyer Austin M. Lux. As a former prosecutor, Austin uses his vast experience and knowledge to help you achieve the best possible outcome for your domestic violence case.
How to Get Charges Dropped for Domestic Violence
Often, it is not in a defendant’s best interest to take a case to trial. Juries are unpredictable, and while having your day in court may appeal to criminal defendants, the cold truth is that jurors’ decisions can change on a dime.
For this reason defense attorneys and prosecutors alike usually want to see if a plea bargain can be reached. Negotiations between lawyers who know how the facts of the case apply to the law and what their case’s chances at trial would be, can help resolve cases more quickly and without the stress and uncertainty of trial.
A necessary part of the prosecutor’s job in most cases is the authority to drop or reduce a charge to a lesser offense if justice is better served by doing so. And although part of the court’s job is to attempt to ensure that justice is done in every case, the judge does not have the authority to tell a prosecutor what to charge. What to charge and what level to charge it at is exclusively the realm of the prosecutor.
However, the prosecution no longer enjoys full authority to charge as they see fit in Colorado domestic violence cases. That is due to our “no-drop” policy for domestic violence cases. Colorado domestic violence laws do not allow the prosecutor to plea bargain the case down to lesser charges, except in limited circumstances.
When Can Domestic Violence Charges Be Dropped in Colorado?
Under Colorado law C.R.S. 18-6-801(3), the court does not allow a person accused of a domestic violence charge to plead guilty or nolo contendere (no contest) to a charge unless it specifically includes a domestic violence designation. In other words, in many cases, the prosecutor is limited in their ability to reduce the charges to something that does not involve domestic violence allegations.
Burden of Proof
Unfortunately, this can sometimes tie a prosecutor’s hands. Even if the prosecutor in a specific case believes that the facts warrant lowering the charges to something unrelated to domestic violence, the law limits their ability to do this.
One situation where a prosecutor can do this is when they believe they do not have enough evidence to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.
To lower the charges, a prosecutor must tell the court that they do not believe they have enough evidence to meet their burden of proof. Then, they can lower the charges. Alternatively, if the prosecutor believes their case is particularly weak, they can drop the case entirely.
Possibly the best way to get domestic violence charges dropped in Colorado is when the prosecutor makes a good faith representation to the judge that they cannot prove the accused and the alleged victim were either currently or formerly in an intimate relationship. Since this is an essential element for a domestic violence charge, the absence of such a relationship means the prosecutor cannot prove all elements of the charge.
Alleged Victim Recants
Other states may allow prosecutors much more leeway to plea bargain on domestic violence cases. It is not uncommon in domestic cases for the alleged victim to later recant and want to drop the charges.
Typically, after some time has passed, an accuser will go to the prosecutor and recant their story. The alleged victim might even tell the judge they don’t want to go forward with the case because the couple has reconciled their differences. Accusers often think this is enough to make the case go away. But they would be wrong in most instances.
Sometimes, the alleged victim might go so far as to not show up for court. Or they may become antagonistic to the prosecution. Even so, it is now out of the accuser’s hands.
The prosecutor may not plea bargain your case to a lesser charge or dismiss the charges unless their case cannot be proven without the accuser’s help. Instead, the prosecutor must proceed to trial unless you want to plead guilty or nolo contendere to a domestic violence charge.
Getting the Your Domestic Violence Charges Dropped May Depend on the Nature of Your Relationship
Colorado law defines domestic violence as an act or threatened act of violence committed by one person against another, who is or was involved in an intimate relationship with one another. Intimate relationship in Colorado includes relationships such as:
- Former spouses,
- Unmarried couples,
- Past unmarried couples, or
- People who have a child together, even if they never lived together.
The courts take three factors into account when determining whether an intimate relationship exists. Judges look at the length of time the couple was together, the nature or type of relationship, and the frequency of interaction between the couple. Sexual relations can indicate an intimate relationship. However, Colorado law does not require a sexual relationship to find that an intimate relationship exists.
Increase Your Chances of Getting Domestic Violence Charges Dropped in Colorado, with Help from a Former Prosecutor Dedicated to Achieving the Best Outcome for You
Colorado Springs domestic violence defense attorney, Austin M. Lux, is an award-winning lawyer with a tremendous amount of experience. Austin understands the Colorado criminal justice system, because he’s seen it from both points of view. Contact Austin today at 719-627-3187 to learn more about how he can find the best way to get your domestic violence charges dropped in Colorado.