Change in definition of domestic violence could have consequences

Colorado residents know that being charged with a domestic violence crime comes with all sorts of negative consequences. For starters, just being arrested for this type of criminal charge can come with an immediate social stigma. Friends and family members may view the individual differently, or the charge may impact a custody arrangement related to children. Then, if a conviction does come from the case, the defendant will likely face jail time, fines, probation and probably an order to attend counseling or anger control classes.

However, a recent report noted that the federal government has changed its definition of what exactly qualifies as "domestic violence." The report noted that the U.S. Department of Justice now considers "domestic violence" to be only those acts which involve physical harm, and which lead to misdemeanor or felony charges. Backlash to the changes includes outrage that such actions as coercive control of a victim, or psychological abuse, seemingly do not fit within the newly amended definition.

On a state-by-state basis, however, the definition of domestic violence may be different. But, the difficulty in prosecuting a case that is based on, for example, psychological abuse only, is obvious. How does a prosecutor prove that such abuse occurred? With physical harm, there will typically be bruises or other injuries that prove domestic violence occurred.

For Colorado residents who are facing domestic violence charges, some of these concepts and terms are worth considering when it comes time to plan a criminal defense strategy. The prosecution bears the burden of proving criminal charges "beyond a reasonable doubt." Part of a defense strategy can include raising that doubt in the minds of jurors.

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