Any criminal offense can have a “domestic violence” sentence enhancer attached to it if the alleged victim is a person with whom the alleged offender has been part of a “couple,” presently or in the past. Most often the criminal charge to which the domestic violence sentence enhancer is attached is an assault, harassment, or criminal mischief (damaging someone else’s property) type of charge. Defending these charges fully is the only way to avoid the requirements added to any sentence for a “domestic violence offense.” A trial may be necessary, and the trial can be emotionally very difficult on both the alleged offender and the alleged victim. Sometimes these allegations are made in the course of divorce or custody proceedings, adding a layer of difficulty to an already very difficult time. Hiring a lawyer who is familiar with these issues is therefore essential.
A person charged with domestic violence is often precluded from having contact with the alleged victim, even if the alleged victim wants to have contact. It can take some time to get the “no contact” requirement modified. Under certain circumstances, the requirement may be lifted to allow phone or email contact, or contact in a public place to deal with issues like child exchanges, financial matters, etc. However, a person charged with such an offense should plan on living away from the alleged victim for a period of time.
A domestic violence charge requires that, if a conviction occurs, the offender attend domestic violence counseling that has been structured by the Domestic Violence Offender Management Board in Colorado. This counseling requires an evaluation that will determine the level of “risk” posed by the offender, based on a series of factors that are taken into account. The offender is then placed into one of three levels of counseling intensity: Level A (lowest risk), Level B (average risk) or Level C (highest risk).
In Level A, the offender attends a group counseling session one evening per week. There will be a minimum of 20 weeks before the supervising team can decide if the offender has met the criteria for discharge. The supervising team consists of the treatment provider, the probation officer, the treatment provider’s victim advocate, and possibly others as well. Level B requires one counseling session per week, plus one additional session per month. There is a minimum of 30 weeks before the supervising team can decide if the offender has met the criteria for discharge. Level C requires two counseling sessions per week, with at least 30 weeks before there can be a determination that the criteria for discharge are met. The counseling is very intensive and can be difficult and expensive.
It is important to have a lawyer who is familiar with the counseling process and the level of counseling required so that the offender has an accurate and thorough understanding of what lies ahead. A knowledgeable lawyer can also assist in informing the offender of the criteria for discharge, so that the offender may be able to finish the counseling within a reasonable time frame.
The lawyers at Miller & Harrison, LLC have the experience and knowledge necessary to not only fully defend against a conviction of domestic violence charges but to also assist the client in preparing for and completing the counseling required if a conviction should occur.