CITY OF AURORA,
Domestic Violence Program
For ten years, the city of Aurora has maintained and operated a progressive and aggressive Domestic Violence Program. While this program has gone through numerous modifications over time to meet various difficulties and changing social circumstances, the goals of the program have remained consistent. These goals are to 1) support the victim; 2) punish the perpetrator; and 3) prevent recidivism.
The cornerstones of the program are a police force knowledgeable about the control and power issues relating to domestic violence, a pro-arrest policy, an aggressive plea bargaining and prosecutorial stand taken by the City Attorney's Office and an effective and practical victim advocate office.
Except in those cases involving serious repeat offenders, almost all cases which result in conviction require a defendant to attend a 36-week domestic violence course. In the most serious repeat offender cases, it has been determined that domestic violence counseling is not appropriate and substantial punishment, through fine and jail, is imposed.
One of the most difficult issues facing the program at this time is the disposition of the low-end domestic violence cases. This case is characterized by a recanting victim who suffered no visible injuries as a result of the alleged assault, and a defendant who has a credible story. It is extremely difficult to obtain convictions in these cases when they are presented to a jury. It is these defendants who may most benefit from domestic violence counseling but, due to the probability of acquittal, refuse to accept plea bargains because of the cost of the domestic violence counseling (approximately $750 to $1,000). The general result in these cases is an acquittal and, therefore, no consequences. Additionally, the victim in many circumstances is upset that we are prosecuting the case despite her desire to no longer pursue criminal charges.
As a result, the program has proposed a revision of the penalty classification system when discussing a possible plea bargain in domestic violence cases. Instead of requiring the low-end domestic violence perpetrator to serve any jail time or be subject to the standard terms and conditions of probation, which include mandatory domestic violence counseling, rather the defendant would be required to pay a fine with part or all suspended in those cases where the defendant agrees to undergo domestic violence counseling.
While this proposal may not result in the most appropriate sentencing, which mandates domestic violence counseling, it does, if accepted by the defendant, result in a conviction of domestic violence, imposition of a financial consequence, and shows the victim that she will be supported in a system should it be necessary to file charges at a later date.
CONTACT: George W. Zierk III, Deputy City Attorney, Criminal Justice Division, Municipal Justice Center, 15001 East Alameda Drive, 2nd Floor, Aurora, CO 80012, Telephone - (303) 739-7810, Fax - (303) 739-7832.
The United States Conference of Mayors
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
Copyright © 1999, US Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.