Your spouse may have just been arrested and you’ve been told you’re a victim of domestic violence. You’re googling what to do next. You have a few quiet moments to think and aren’t sure what you want. Right now you can take some time to evaluate your relationship. Is this just a bad fight, or is it something more?
(You can read about the legal process that happens when someone is arrested for domestic violence in Part 1)
In the following paragraphs, we’ll give you ideas for how to move forward if you want to stay, or what to do if you want to leave.
In the next few days you may be contacted by various people. Their goal is to guide you through the court and trial process. It’s important to remember that you don’t HAVE to talk to any of them. Each person represents a particular agency or perspective. Only an attorney that you retain to represent yourself is wholly in your corner.
Some of the people who may contact you within the next few days can include:
Victim’s advocates from the police department and the DAs office – they are supposed to make sure that you are informed of what is happening in your spouse’s case. They often act as a go-between for the prosecutor.
Police officers and/or detectives – may want to talk to you about what happened during the incident and may ask about any other incidents. Their goal is to gather additional evidence to use in the prosecution of your spouse.
Advocates from local domestic violence organizations – are available to support you by connecting you to local resources and helping you get through this period of uncertainty.
The Victim Right’s Act (VRA)
As the victim, you have certain rights under Colorado State Law.
The Victim Rights Act (VRA) in Colorado ensures that crime victims are treated with fairness, respect, dignity and that they are free from intimidation, harassment, and abuse. The VRA also helps to ensure that victims are informed of critical stages of the criminal justice process and that they may be present for, and heard, at certain stages as well.Colorado Division of Criminal Justice Website
You can find more information on the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice website.
Despite the assurances of this act, many people find that they are considered a victim but they don’t feel like a victim. This perspective is not generally welcomed by the system and cops and prosecutors will almost always proceed with a case over the victim’s objection, at least at first.
If you need help expressing yourself and aren’t feeling heard or recognized by the system, please consider hiring victim’s counsel (attorney) to assist you. Victim’s counsel can coordinate with a defense attorney and/or the prosecution to advocate for your perspective and goals.
Think About Your Relationship
Here are some questions to ask yourself that may help you recognize any red flags. We’ve also linked a Power & Control Wheel (English) (Español) to help you think through whether your relationship is healthy and equal.
Do I feel confused much of the time?
Am I afraid to give my input or ask questions?
Do they want to know where I am all of the time?
Are they honest with me?
Do they accuse me of things I haven’t done? (having affairs, drinking or doing drugs, hurting the children)
When they are afraid I’ll leave, do they tell me they’ll take the kids?
Do I have other friends? Can I see my family when I want?
Do they have a history of difficult relationships?
Do they have a steady job?
When something goes wrong, do they always say it’s my fault?
Do I ever wonder how all of the fights are my fault?
Do they blame me for his behaviors? (drinking, using, getting angry with the kids, flirting with other people)
It Was A Mistake, How Do I Help My Spouse?
After looking over the questions above, you may decide that it was just a bad fight and feel guilty that your spouse was arrested. You may also recognize some signs of abuse, but not want to leave. This often happens for a variety of reasons, and it’s important to remember that this is your choice.
Find an attorney as soon as you can. You can retain a defense attorney to represent your spouse and/or a victim’s attorney to represent yourself.
You may be tempted to try and convince the prosecutor, advocate or detective that you want the case dismissed. This is often a mistake. They are trained to listen to your statements and look for additional evidence to support their belief that you are a victim of a pattern of coercion and control. They will use any bit of information that you provide as evidence against your partner.
Information that is relayed through an attorney can not be used against you or your partner later in the case. An attorney working on your behalf will know what to tell the police and prosecutor. They will have your best interests in mind.
Your partner may qualify for a public defender, depending on your income. You can begin looking into that option now by calling your county public defender’s office, or looking at this website.
There will be a mandatory protection order (MPO) put in place by the judge at the bail hearing. If you would like to legally see your partner, you need to ask the Court to modify it. You can do this when the DA’s advocate contacts you, or you can call their office in your county. You can also appear in court and make this request directly to the court. However, remember that your statements are always being recorded and could be used in the case later. Victim’s counsel can help make these requests on your behalf.
I’m Ready To Leave the Relationship
This can be a big step, and may require some planning. Some considerations:
Are you in a safe place? You can’t be evicted as a victim of domestic violence, but if you want to leave the place you’ve been living, you should make sure that you have a safe and supportive environment for the next 6+ months. Domestic violence shelters may be able to help you.
Are you married? Do you have children? You can see a divorce attorney to start planning for financial issues, custody and parenting issues and other legal mechanisms for disentangling your life from your ex.
The attorneys at the Datz Law Firm specialize in criminal defense, victim representation, protection orders and divorce/custody matters. No matter what your goals – we can help you find the resolution that works for you.