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Domestic Violence Sunset

Intimate Relationship and Domestic Violence in Colorado

By Lain A. Lawrence - Colorado Domestic Violence Defense Attorney March 21, 2023

Defense attorneys are routinely consulted for allegations of domestic violence. The problem is that there is no criminal offense called domestic violence in Colorado. Instead, the legislature has created a sentence enhancer.

Domestic violence cases can have significant consequences. A conviction can prevent a defendant from owning a firearm. It could impact a person’s ability to find employment or housing.

It is important to speak with a qualified domestic violence attorney. Our firm defends defendants accused of domestic violence. We handle cases in Denver, Aurora, Arapahoe County, Adams County or any court in the State of Colorado

What is Domestic Violence in Colorado?

There is no crime of domestic violence in Colorado. Instead, it is a sentence enhancer that can apply to any criminal offense. That is because the definition of domestic violence is broad.

Domestic violence means an act or threatened act of violence. The act must be upon a person with whom the actor is involved in an intimate relationship. It also includes past intimate relationships.

Domestic violence also includes any other crime against a person or property. Property includes animals. Criminal offenses classified as municipal ordinance violations are included as acts of domestic violence.

It also includes any criminal offense used as a method of coercion, control, punishment, or intimidation. Acts of revenge directed against an intimate partner are also included in the definition.

As stated above, the definition is broad. However, the first element of domestic violence is an intimate relationship. 

What is an Intimate Relationship under Colorado Domestic Violence Law?

The definition of intimate relationship has evolved since the inception of the Colorado Domestic Violence statute. Courts would previously look at the existence of a sexual relationship. Sex, alone, was found to be a reliable test.

The failure of the test can be seen in a simple example. 

There are two couples that are facing criminal charges. The first is a couple that had a one-night stand but no real relationship.

The second is a religious couple dating for several years but waiting for marriage to have sex. The one-night stand couple would have an intimate relationship, but the other couple would not.

In 2010 the Colorado Supreme Court gave some guidance in People v. Disher. In that case the court first looked at the definition of “intimate relationship”. An intimate relationship definition is not clear.

The statute defines it as a relationship between spouses, former spouses, past or present unmarried couples. It also includes parents of the same child. The parents did not have to be married or have lived together at any time. This definition is found at C.R.S. 18-6-800.3(2).

The Disher Court found that a sexual relationship was not needed for an intimate relationship. The logic was “intimate” is not synonymous with “sexual”. Intimacy is more expansive than sexual, and it is marked by close acquaintance or association. Reading the need for a sexual relationship into the statue reduces the scope of the meaning. 

Colorado has three factors that will be considered in determining the existence of an intimate relationship. The court will look at the length of the relationship and the nature and type of the relationship. The final factor is the frequency of interaction between the parties. 

These are not exhaustive factors. This means a court can look at other factors. A skilled domestic violence attorney would be able to create defense strategies that suggest other possible factors to consider.

Once you have an Intimate Relationship, you always have a relationship.

The language of the definition above includes people who have kids or people have had past relationships. This means that an intimate relationship will continue even after the relationship has ended.

It isn’t uncommon to see parties that have divorced have disputes over custody or petty issues. These disputes can happen years after separation. However, a defendant charged with a crime in this type of situation will still be designated as a domestic violence offender. 

A domestic relationship definition also includes couples with children, even if it was never intimate.

How Are Domestic Violence Cases Different From other Criminal Defense Cases?

Domestic violence cases are handled differently by law enforcement. Police are typically required by their procedure to automatically arrest anyone suspected of a domestic violence offense. Given the broad definition, the police can classify potentially any argument as domestic violence in Colorado.

Second, the defendant will be arrested on a no bond warrant. Typically, a defendant will be permitted to post a bond as soon as they are arrested for a criminal offense. A no bond warrant means they must see a judge before bond is set. 

Typically, a defendant will be required to spend at least a night in jail before being granted a bond. If the crime happens on a weekend, a defendant could sit for the weekend. A conviction can result in additional jail time.

Third, a defendant will be issued a mandatory protection order. These protection orders will require a defendant to stay away from the victim and vacate the residency. 

This would result in the defendant having to find another place to live. They would have to pay for two homes during the pendency of the case. Protection orders can be modified during, but it takes a skilled domestic violence lawyer to get this done.

A defendant will lose their gun rights if convicted of an act of domestic violence. The Brady Handgun Prevention Act will prevent a person convicted of an act of domestic violence from owning or possessing firearms. This includes misdemeanor convictions that are designated as acts of domestic violence.


Domestic Violence cases have serious consequences. Speak with a criminal defense attorney that regularly handles domestic violence charges.

Our firm routinely represents individuals accused of criminal offense. We are open during regular business hours, but we will stay late or be available on weekends if necessary. Schedule a free consultation.

We are ready, willing, and able to discuss your case with you. Our firm defends against domestic violence charges on a regular basis. We handle cases in Denver, Aurora, Arapahoe County, Adams County, or any court in the State of Colorado.

Contact our criminal defense lawyer today.