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April 20, 2023

Improvements to Domestic Violence Cases, Access to Resources Advances

DENVER, CO - The House today advanced legislation sponsored by Majority Leader Monica Duran and Representative Mike Weissman on a preliminary vote to improve court procedures and victim protections for domestic violence cases in municipal courts.

“As a survivor of domestic violence, I know how imperative it is to have comprehensive protections for victims while they seek accountability in court,” said Majority Leader Monica Duran, D-Wheat Ridge. “Our current law doesn’t hold county and municipal courts to the same standards for domestic violence cases and doesn’t require them to share case information between one another, letting past criminal activity fall through the cracks when considering the threat that an abuser poses to the victim and the community. By improving the way that municipal courts handle domestic violence cases, Coloradans will have equal protections and services under the law, no matter where they live.”

“Municipal courts have jurisdiction over domestic violence cases in several large Front Range cities, but they aren’t required by law to have the same procedural requirements or Victims Rights Amendment protections as county courts do," said Rep. Mike Weissman, D-Aurora. “That means that over 1.5 million Coloradans aren't guaranteed the protections for domestic violence survivors that we’ve deemed necessary to keep victims safe and assist their recovery. This legislation would require municipal courts to provide the same victim protections and apply equivalent sentencing requirements as county courts to ensure that Coloradans receive equal treatment for domestic violence cases.”

HB23-1222 would create new requirements for municipal courts for domestic violence cases. These requirements include that:

  • Victims, victims’ families, and witnesses of a domestic violence violation will receive protections and rights under the “Victim Rights Act”,

  • Sentencing, probation, and release on bond for a violation must be consistent with state law,

  • Guidelines and standards are consistent with those adopted by the Domestic Violence Offender Management Board, and

  • The prosecuting attorney that originally meets with the victim should make an effort to stay on the case throughout the proceeding.

If there is a domestic violence violation, municipal courts would be required to issue a protection order, report the violation to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI), and search the CBI and National Crime Information Center System databases to identify potential past domestic violence violations.

The Department of Public Safety would report the total number of reports and inquiries submitted to the CBI, the Colorado Crime Information Center database, and the National Crime Information Center database during the annual SMART Act hearing so the General Assembly can determine if further action can be taken to improve how domestic violence cases are handled.

The Colorado Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board (board) reported that there were 91 fatalities due to domestic violence in 2021, the highest the state has seen since the board was founded in 2017. By improving how municipal courts handle domestic violence cases and ensuring victims are afforded protections by the Victims Rights Act, Colorado can reduce and prevent domestic violence.

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