Actually, the new law is designed to put teeth into an older law that was supposed to have resulted in stiffer sentences for repeat domestic violence offenders but was ineffective and rarely used for a variety of reasons. That law, passed in 2000, allowed Colorado prosecutors to seek felony convictions – and a mandatory minimum of three years in prison - for individuals who were being charged with domestic violence for the fourth time.
However, few prosecutors were able to either seek or obtain felony convictions under the “habitual offender” law. A Denver Post analysis found that in the 15 years after the law was passed, only 155 people were convicted on felony charges as domestic violence habitual offenders. This small number of convictions was due to confusing court decisions about the law as well as the fact that prosecutors seeking felony convictions in county court would often have a difficult time using prior misdemeanor convictions in municipal court as the basis for the habitual offender charge.
While prosecutors may still face such administrative challenges, the revised law, C.R.S. Section 18-6-801(7)(a), clarifies that a range of prior misdemeanor convictions, if they were domestic violence-related, can be used to support a class 5 felony conviction. Specifically:
Any misdemeanor offense that includes an act of domestic violence is a class 5 felony if the defendant at the time of sentencing has been previously convicted of three or more prior offenses that included an act of domestic violence and that were separately brought and tried and arising out of separate criminal episodes.
Under the law, prosecutors can present evidence that prior convictions for such crimes as assault or disturbing the peace “included an act of domestic violence,” even if juries in those prior cases did not find that was the case.
This means that prosecutors effectively get a second bite at the domestic violence apple by having the chance to prove that prior convictions, going back 15 years, were domestic violence-related.
This change in Colorado domestic violence law makes it even more important to fight misdemeanor domestic battery or other criminal charges rather than simply entering a guilty plea, even to lesser charges. If you are facing domestic violence charges -whether for the first time, second time, or more - you need to retain a Colorado Springs domestic violence defense attorney as soon as possible. A conviction can destroy your family and cost you your future. Don’t attempt to face this ordeal alone.