What Happens If a CO Domestic Violence Victim Skips Court?

One of the most frequent questions asked about domestic violence cases in Colorado is what happens if the victim doesn’t show up to court. Is the case dismissed? Will it continue anyway? The truth is: the answer isn’t as simple as it may seem on the surface.

Here’s what you need to know about domestic violence in Colorado, including what happens if the victim doesn’t show up to court.

Domestic Violence Laws in Colorado

One of the first things that is crucial to understanding domestic violence law in Colorado is that domestic violence is not a charge in and of itself. Instead, it’s a sentence enhancement that is added to another charge.

Essentially, any crime can be charged with a domestic violence enhancement if the relationship with the victim meets the definition of domestic violence in the state.

Crimes that are commonly associated with a domestic violence enhancement include:

  • Assault
  • Violation of a restraining order
  • Stalking
  • Sexual assault
  • Harassment
  • Menacing
  • Elder abuse
  • Child abuse
  • False imprisonment
  • Unlawful Sexual contact

However, any crime can have a domestic violence enhancement added on to it. Furthermore, these crimes must be perpetrated against someone with whom you had or have an intimate relationship, per the state’s consideration.

That means a crime can receive a domestic violence enhancement if it’s perpetrated against a person with whom:

  • You’ve been married or are married
  • You share a child
  • You’ve had a romantic relationship, like dating

How Colorado Handles Prosecution of Domestic Violence

Colorado is considered a “no-drop prosecution state.” This means that if the prosecutor believes they can prove a case against you in court for your charges, then they cannot offer a plea deal or to dismiss the case against you simply because the victim requests that the case be dropped. Even if the victim in the case does not show up for trial, the charges will not necessarily be dropped if the prosecutor can prove the case against you through other means.

Basically, if the prosecution believes there is enough evidence to go forward without the victim, they will. A victim who is not willing to cooperate will not automatically mean the case gets dismissed.

On top of that, the court can subpoena a victim to appear in court. If they are subpoenaed, then they are legally required to appear. Failing to do so could result in a bench warrant ordered, which could lead to the victim’s arrest. The court can also pursue charges of contempt of court if they don’t comply, which can result in up to 180 days in jail and fines of $500 for the victim.

Penalties for Domestic Violence

As previously mentioned, domestic violence is an enhancement, so it will not be penalized as a separate act. If you are found guilty of charges that include a domestic violence enhancement, then the court will sentence you for the main offense, such as assault. They’ll require you to complete a domestic violence evaluation and domestic violence treatment, as well.

If you have three prior convictions for crimes with a domestic violence enhancement, then any new domestic violence offense would face increased penalties. The court can be petitioned by the prosecutor to have you labeled as a habitual domestic violence offender, and you may be charged with a Class 5 felony. That can result in up to four years in prison.


About the Author:

Andrew Bryant is a well-respected Colorado Springs criminal attorney who has been practicing in the area for years. A Colorado native, he returned to the home he loves after graduating from the University of Kentucky College of Law. Now, he uses the knowledge he gained as an El Paso County District Attorney to fight tirelessly for his clients’ rights. He is AV-Preeminent rated, has been recognized for his work by The National Trial Lawyers, and has been named to Best of the Springs lists by The Gazette for years.