How Colorado’s Criminal Justice System Can Protect You and Your Children When You File a Criminal Case Against Your Spouse
You may not want to file a criminal case against your spouse, but when your health and safety or that of your children is at risk, you may not have much of a choice. Even in marriages where neither party sees divorce in their future, domestic violence, child abuse, harassment, and stalking can create an atmosphere of fear and anxiety. Sadly, such criminal conduct can and does often escalate, resulting in severe injuries or death.
Colorado law recognizes the seriousness of domestic violence and other crimes involving spouses. Police and prosecutors also aggressively pursue allegations of domestic violence and similar crimes and understand the practical, physical, and emotional challenges involved when one spouse accuses the other of criminal misconduct.
If you find yourself living in fear or are on the receiving end of threats and acts by your husband or wife, here is what you need to know about filing a criminal case against a spouse.
People Don’t File A Criminal Case Against a Spouse, Prosecutors Do
The first thing to understand about a criminal case against your spouse is that you are not the person who will file it. You will contact the police and tell them what happened, and they may arrest your spouse based on your allegations about their transgressions.
You may also indicate to the police and later to prosecutors that you want to “press charges.” But the decision whether to bring criminal charges against your spouse is for prosecutors alone. They will look at the allegations and evidence and determine whether they can and should file a criminal case.
While Colorado prosecutors will take into consideration your expressed wishes as to whether to proceed with charges, your desire won’t control their choice. Similarly, many people believe that an accuser can tell prosecutors to “drop the charges” against their spouse. This is not the case in Colorado.
Even if the individuals involved reconcile, even if the alleged victim doesn’t want to see the alleged perpetrator charged, the decision as to whether to continue to pursue a case lies entirely with Colorado Springs prosecutors. If they believe that your spouse committed an act of domestic violence or other offense, the prosecutors can and will continue to pursue charges regardless of your wishes.
Civil Protection Orders
Even though the ultimate power to pursue and obtain convictions lies with prosecutors, Colorado’s criminal justice system does provide domestic violence victims with a mechanism they can use to protect themselves and their children: a restraining order.
Also called a civil protection order, a restraining order can dramatically limit your spouse’s rights and their day-to-day life. A restraining order can prohibit someone from contacting or seeing you or your children, keep them out of your house, and impose other restrictions on their communications, movements, and activities. Violations of restraining orders are themselves criminal offenses.
Colorado judges typically enter protection orders when someone the accused knows petitions the court for the order based on allegations involving:
- Domestic violence
- Spousal abuse
- Child abuse
- Endangering the welfare of a child
- Sexual abuse
How to Get a Civil Protective Order Against Your Spouse
If you haven’t yet filed for divorce, you can petition a court to issue a temporary or permanent civil protection order against your spouse. The order would prohibit your spouse from certain conduct, contact, or communication with you and other specified individuals. You can obtain an order of protection even if you haven’t reported the behavior to the police, whether or not your spouse is facing charges. A judge will issue the restraining order if they find that an imminent danger exists to you or your children.
If you have already filed for divorce and your case is pending, you can seek an order of protection in front of the same judge who presides over your divorce case. Working with the same Colorado judge allows the judge to take into consideration your spouse’s conduct as to matters other than the restraining order, such as custody, visitation, child support, and property division.
If You Believe You Have a Criminal Case Against Your Spouse, Speak With an Attorney Today
Orders of protection can be a powerful shield against domestic violence, child abuse, stalking, harassment, and other offenses. But you should also not hesitate to contact the police if you believe that you have a criminal case against your spouse. Nothing is more paramount than your safety and that of your children and loved ones.
If you or your children feel at all unsafe or afraid, don’t hesitate a moment longer. An experienced Colorado Springs divorce and criminal defense attorney can provide you with the answers you need and the peace of mind that you deserve.
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