Colorado Domestic Violence Law: Why the Police Make Immediate Arrests in Domestic Violence Cases

Colorado Domestic Violence Law: Why the Police Make Immediate Arrests in Domestic Violence Cases

To understand the background to Colorado’s mandatory arrest law in domestic violence cases, one must study the same crime statistics the Colorado State Legislature used in making the decision to pass this draconian law. These statistics demonstrate the use of extreme examples to prove the rule. Colorado’s mandatory arrest laws in DV cases stems from these facts and figures.

It is my opinion that the police would NOT arrest in many – if not most – of the minor domestic violence cases they investigate.  Many in the system advocate for the return to an officers “street sense” and experience in making the decision to arrest in domestic violence cases – just as law enforcement performs their duties in every other criminal investigation.  However, the political system that creates the laws of Colorado is fueled by public outrage — therefore I produced this page to point out the “stats” used to support Colorado’s mandatory arrest laws.

A recent study by the State of Colorado’s Domestic Abuse Assistance Program (DAAP), in 2006, found the following:

Colorado Domestic Violence Fatality Statistics

Half of all murders committed in Colorado are committed by a current or former intimate partner and the victims are disproportionately female.

A firearm, specifically a handgun, is the most used weapon during a domestic violence fatality.

From 2000 to 2006, 19 children were killed during a domestic violence related incident (Project Safeguard 2006).

Nationally, the occurrence of domestic violence fatalities is somewhat lower. From 1976 to 2002, about 11% of all homicide victims in the United States were killed by a current or former intimate partner (Fox and Zawitz 2004).

Homicide is the leading cause of death of pregnant women in the U.S. (Chang, Berg and Herndon 2005).

In Colorado in 2006, there were 32 incidents resulting in 41 domestic violence related fatalities.

Those incidents included:

• 24 intimate partners murdered (20 female victims were killed by a male partner and 4 male
victims were killed by a female partner)

• 2 children murdered by their fathers

• 1 friend of a victim murdered

• 10 perpetrator suicides (all male) and

• 4 perpetrators killed by law enforcement or by a family member.

A recent publication by Project Safeguard analyzed 90 cases of domestic violence fatalities and the results provide a clearer picture of the circumstances surrounding such incidents. Again, males were disproportionately higher as the offender and females were the majority of victims. Most of the deaths occurred in the victim’s home.

The victims ranged in age from 18 to 85 years old, with an average age of 36 years old, whereas the offenders ranged in age from 17 to 80, with an average of 38 years old. Approximately half of the victims in the study sample were White and the relationship status at the time of death between the victim and perpetrator was that they were still in a current relationship (Project Safeguard 2006).

• Almost one-half of all murders in Colorado are committed by an intimate or former intimate
partner and the victims are disproportionately female.
Citation: Project Safeguard, Fatality Review Project Denver, Colorado 2007

• In 2006, 41 people died during 32 incidents of domestic violence. This included 2 children.
Firearms, specifically a handgun was the most used weapon followed by a knife.
Citation: Project Safeguard, Fatality Review Project Denver, Colorado 2007

• From 2000 to 2006, 19 children have been killed during a domestic violence related incident.
Citation: Project Safeguard, Fatality Review Project Denver, Colorado 2007

• In 2006, there were 7 incidents of murder/suicide resulting in 15 deaths. In all of those incidents, men were the perpetrators.

Since 2002, there have been 52 incidents of murder/suicide resulting in 112 deaths. Men were the perpetrators in over 95% of those incidents. Citation: Project Safeguard, Fatality Review Project Denver, Colorado 2007.

Focus of Law Enforcement – Take No Chances

These statistics drive the mandatory arrest laws in Colorado.  As a former Career DA for some 13 years in Arapahoe and Douglas Counties, I know firsthand that the worst fear of a prosecutor and a police officer which is that –  after taking a “chance” on the Defendant – that person violates that trust – and commits a heinous criminal act. 

Most often the decision to take the chance is the right one – the fair and just thing to do.  But when it backfires, most elected prosecutors are attacked by the media for being “soft on crime.”  This results in the termination of the young prosecutor or the end of a career for the officer who acted with compassion and understanding at the time of the decision to trust the accused.

Everyone in the Colorado Criminal Justice System knows this reality and elected DA’s are clear on the consequences of the “wrong decision.”  In these troubled economic times – given the statistics trotted out above – elected District Attorneys and their front line prosecutors are keenly aware of their fate for making an error judgement in Colorado.

Nonetheless – it is important to be fully informed of what drives Colorado’s Domestic Violence System.


An Experienced Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer for Domestic Violence Cases

Colorado Domestic Violence Lawyer