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Domestic violence charges in Colorado can have tragic results

The Colorado law on domestic violence was enacted about 25 years ago, and it currently has critics who assert that it needs some revamping. For one thing, the law requires a mandatory arrest where there are signs of domestic violence, but in some instances, that may be a subjective determination or one that is hastily and inaccurately made. Critics would like to see a law that does not so quickly draw the full force of the criminal law and its heavy sanctions for domestic violence charges into the mix.

The early introduction of criminal penalties into a domestic conflict can prematurely break up a family and prevent the ameliorating effects of family therapy and other treatment protocols, where therapy may have been appropriate. In many instances, a criminal penalty in a domestic dispute may create more lasting pain than is justifiable. The law currently tends to slap harsh criminal sanctions that can destroy the existing integrity of a family unit that may not even be experiencing a pattern of abuse.

Several law enforcement groups, academic experts and even the Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence seem to agree that changes could be helpful. The law may bring an unfair result by imposing a criminal record on either of the domestic partners when the incident was relatively minor. The permanent scar of a criminal record can be way out of proportion and unjust in those cases.  Most states have domestic violence laws that do not apply the full and oppressive force of the criminal system.

That less punitive approach may help where families are strong enough to stay together and grow healthy. The domestic violence charges filed in most states function mainly outside of the criminal system. Stay orders and related remedies do not leave a permanent criminal record; they can be supplemented by true criminal arrests where necessary. Today in Colorado, the inflexibility of the current law places some innocent women at risk, along with a smaller number of innocent men. The introduction of an element of discretion seems to be the basic change that most interested parties would like to see accomplished.

Source: greeleytribune.com, "Gray areas: Colorado domestic violence law comes with unintended consequences; experts consider change", Nov. 12, 2016

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