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“But that’s not domestic violence!”

Many people are surprised to learn how easy it is to be charged with domestic violence in Colorado. If domestic violence is reported to the police, Colorado law requires a mandatory arrest.

As a result, many couples learn after one of them is already sitting in jail about how easy it is to be charged with domestic violence. In addition, there are potentially harsh consequences after the arrest, including the requirement of “no contact” with the alleged victim, vacating the shared home, and domestic violence classes. Here are some of the easiest ways to find yourself facing DV charges.

1. Breaking or damaging property.

Many of us have experienced a situation where we are so frustrated that we end up breaking some minor personal property like a picture frame, dish, or a phone screen.

Under Colorado law, if you are married or residing with your partner, the property may be considered joint property and causing damage to anything that belongs to another can be charged as criminal mischief with the added domestic violence sentence enhancer. In one case we defended in Boulder, Colorado, our client was charged with breaking a teacup while unloading the dishwasher. In another case, a client was charged for throwing magazines and cracking the screen on an electronic device.

It is obviously an absurd result that if you live alone, you can break your own dishes but if you live with a partner, doing the same thing results in you going to jail. This is one of the easiest ways to find yourself facing domestic violence charges.

2. Telephone obstruction

It is illegal in Colorado to prevent, obstruct, or delay someone from using their phone to make any communication or message. Often partners will hold each other’s phones, sometimes to check for messages if he/she suspects infidelity or sometimes just to get the other person’s attention. Most people are unaware that doing so can result in a criminal charge.

3. Harassment

A wide variety of behaviors that are relatively common during arguments, especially heated arguments during times of high stress like a pending break-up or divorce, can be charged as harassment. Examples include throwing a pillow or clothing, touching or grabbing a person’s shoulder or hand, opening a locked door, sending repeated unanswered emails or text messages, or even saying the wrong thing if it is offensive enough or sounds threatening in any way can result in a criminal charge. It is not a defense to say that the other person provoked the behavior either. Often times, we see cases where both parties are acting equally as bad but only one person is charged as the perpetrator while the other person is labeled as a “victim”, even though most people would see them both being at fault.

Unfortunately, most jurisdictions take these minor incidents very seriously. It is common to think of “domestic violence” as physical contact or violence. But the definition is much broader than that. At times, it can be almost too easy to end up with a criminal charge. If you do find yourself in this situation, you are not alone. You would be wise to consult an attorney because even though the circumstances leading to the criminal charge are minor, the consequences are not.

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