Four bills improve judicial processes in abuse and domestic violence cases
DENVER, CO - Lieutenant Governor Dianne Primavera today signed four bills into law to improve victim protections in the justice system.
HB23-1107 provides funding to services and programs that support crime survivors, including survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. HB23-1222 improves court procedures and victim protections for domestic violence cases in municipal courts. HB23-1108 better equips the judicial system and judicial personnel with the tools needed to understand the complex issues faced by victims of crimes like sexual assault, child abuse, and domestic violence.
“I know firsthand how crucial it is to improve protections for survivors of domestic violence and abuse, and with these bills becoming law today, Colorado is making huge strides toward a safer environment for survivors while they navigate the judicial system,” said Majority Leader Monica Duran, D-Wheat Ridge, sponsor of HB23-1107, HB23-1108, and HB23-1222. “With these new laws, we’re boosting funding for victim services, improving training for judicial personnel that work on crime victim cases, and improving victim protections in municipal court proceedings. Passing these laws has been one of my top priorities as a legislator, and I’m proud that Colorado will better support victims of crime.”
HB23-1107, sponsored by Majority Leader Monica Duran, Assistant Minority Leader Rose Pugliese, and Senators Bob Gardner and Faith Winter, designates $3 million to the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Program inside the Department of Human Services. This program directly funds community-based domestic violence and sexual assault programs statewide. These programs provide critical services for victims and survivors of crime including shelter, counseling, safety planning, and support for medical appointments.
“I’m proud to be a part of multiple pieces of transformative legislation to strengthen autonomy and outcomes for survivors of intimate violence,” said Senator Faith Winter, D-Westminster. “These bills help ensure that survivors are safe during their court proceedings, and have community-based support systems to help them get back on their feet. Today’s signing signals our commitment to furthering support for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in Colorado.”
In many Front Range cities, domestic violence cases can be heard by municipal courts, which handle these cases as lower level offenses, unlike county courts. HB23-1222, sponsored by Majority Leader Duran, Representative Mike Weissman, and Senators Dylan Roberts and Faith Winter creates new requirements for municipal courts for domestic violence cases so these cases are treated as seriously as they are in county court. The law ensures provisions of the Victims’ Rights Act are applied in municipal courts, instructs judges to check a defendant for prior charges before issuing a verdict, and ensures all cases in municipal courts have the same resources and safety precautions available that they would in a county court, among other requirements.
“This bill will improve how domestic violence cases are handled in municipal court to guarantee Victim Rights Amendment protections apply as they do in county courts," said Rep. Mike Weissman, D-Aurora, sponsor of HB23-1222. “Our new law requires municipal courts to provide the same protections and apply equivalent sentencing requirements as county courts so all Coloradans can expect equal treatment under the law.”
“Since the pandemic, domestic violence cases have surged across the United States, including here in Colorado,” Senator Dylan Roberts, D-Avon, said. “Previously, county and municipal courts weren’t held to the same procedural standards for domestic violence cases, which allowed perpetrators and survivors to fall through the cracks. This new law will improve the way municipal courts handle domestic violence cases – ensuring survivors are given the protections they deserve while creating a safer state for all Coloradans.”
HB23-1108, sponsored by Majority Leader Duran, Representative Gabe Evans, and Senators Chris Hansen and Bob Gardner, creates a task force in the Office for Victims Programs to examine current victim and survivor awareness and responsiveness trainings for judicial personnel. The task force will report their findings and make recommendations on how to improve trainings for judicial personnel to better serve victims and survivors of crimes including sexual assault, harassment, and domestic violence.
“For victims and survivors of crime, seeking accountability through the justice system can be difficult and retraumatizing,” said Senator Chris Hansen, D-Denver. “This legislation gives judges and other judicial personnel the tools needed to approach domestic violence and sexual assault cases with care and a deeper understanding of those crimes. As the bill moved through the legislative process, we were also able to secure new supports for Colorado families by establishing a working group of experts that will make recommendations on how to best improve judicial trainings and programs for folks working on family cases. I’m proud to see this critical policy signed into law which will lead to better, safer outcomes for Coloradans seeking justice.”
Lieutenant Governor Dianne Primavera also signed HB23-1178, sponsored by Representative Meg Froelich and Senator Faith Winter, into law. The bill improves protections for Colorado children by adopting a federal law that requires judges and court personnel to receive training about child abuse, child sexual abuse, and domestic violence, in addition to considering certain evidence when determining custody decisions. The bill directs the task force created in HB23-1108 to study the federal training requirements in Kayden’s Law for a judge or magistrate who presides over family law cases and study current judicial training that is exercised successfully across the country. The bill also requires certain court personnel to complete ongoing trainings regarding domestic violence and child abuse issues.
“When judicial personnel do not take child abuse and child sexual abuse allegations seriously, abusers gain custody of their children,” said Rep. Meg Froelich, D-Englewood, sponsor of HB23-1178. “We are sending a message that in Colorado we intend to keep children safe from family violence, and are proud to be the first state to enact a state version of Kayden’s Law. To avoid the tragic consequences we have seen in Colorado and across the country, all judicial personnel, including judges, need to be trained to recognize domestic violence, child abuse and child sex abuse.”
Congress passed Kayden’s Law in March 2022 after a seven-year-old girl was killed by her father after a judge awarded partial, unsupervised custody despite a lengthy history of violence and a pending restraining order from the mother. This federal law offers financial incentives to states to adopt child safety legislation including testimony requirements and evidence-based training requirements for judicial personnel. Local concern over child custody laws arose in 2022 when a Colorado family court custody evaluator was suspended after he was quoted questioning the legitimacy of 90% of the child abuse allegations he evaluated.