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    Colorado Domestic Violence Treatment – What Are The Standards – What Does The Evaluation Consist Of – How Does It Work?

    By Colorado Domestic Violence Defense Lawyer – Attorney – H. Michael Steinberg

    In late 2010.. there was a “sea change” in the approach Colorado courts were taking towards the mandatory component for the treatment required in all Colorado domestic violence based convictions.

    Colorado Domestic Violence Treatment

    Colorado Domestic Violence Treatment

    At that time Colorado’s domestic violence treatment standards changed to include a more “differentiated treatment” approach – meaning a more individual specific approach to treatment.

    Domestic Violence Treatment As A Condition Of Every DV Sentence

    As a condition of any probation or deferred sentence for a defendant convicted of domestic violence, sentencing courts must impose the requirement that the defendant successfully complete domestic violence treatment.  CRS § 18-6-801(1)(a)

    Domestic violence” is defined in part as “any act or threatened act of violence upon a person with whom the actor is or has been in an intimate relationship,” or for non-assaultive crimes when the action is used “as a method of coercion, control, punishment, intimidation, or revenge. CRS § 18-6-800.3(1).

    “Intimate relationship” is defined as “a relationship between spouses, former spouses, past or present unmarried couples, or persons who are both the parents of the same child, regardless of whether the persons have been married or have lived together.” CRS § 18-6-800.3(2).

    The Colorado Domestic Violence Offender Management Board (DVOMB or Board) passed new treatment standards for offenders convicted of domestic violence offenses. For a list of providers certified by the state CLICK here..

    The Pre -2010 Colorado Domestic Violence Standards

    Under the original standards, an offender must complete a presumptive minimum of thirty-six weeks of domestic violence treatment. The term of treatment could be reduced to twenty-four weeks for offenders who meet specific criteria, including that they have fulfilled all court-ordered conditions, have complied with their offender contracts, pose no identified victim safety concerns, have accepted responsibility for their violent behavior, have openly cooperated in treatment, and are not using illicit substances. Offenders are required to attend weekly sessions either in a group (ninety minutes minimum) or one-on-one (fifty minutes minimum).

    The new treatment standards for domestic violence offenders, like the prior standards, are for domestic violence offenders who are sentenced to probation or parole, are placed on a community corrections sentence, or receive a deferred judgment and sentence

    Programs that provide treatment must be licensed domestic violence providers from the DVOMB-approved provider list to comply with state law. There are no online domestic violence programs that are approved. The standards require face-to-face contact for sessions.

    The “New” Domestic Violence Treatment Standards 

    The new treatment standards provide that, after an offender pleads guilty to or is found guilty of a domestic violence offense, the offender is referred by the probation department to a domestic violence treatment provider from the list of approved providers.

    Here is a LINK to a list of approved providers:

    The approved provider then performs an evaluation pursuant to assess the offender’s risk of re-offending, criminogenic treatment needs, responsiveness to treatment, and identification of other treatment issues.

    The Initial Colorado Domestic Violence Evaluation 

    Where possible, the evaluation must occur within one week after the offender first contacts the treatment agency. The evaluation is intended to identify the risk level and needs of the offender relating to treatment, containment, and stabilization. A determination of the initial placement must be made within thirty days after the completion of this initial intake evaluation.

    The DV Evaluation Must Follow The Plea Of Guilty

    As with the original standards, no evaluation may be started until after a finding of guilt, whether by plea or verdict. Thus, as with the original standards, no pre-plea evaluation can occur. The standards do permit an offender to complete an evaluation after the plea but before sentencing, but in such cases, a post-sentence evaluation is required.

    What Are The Domestic Violence Assessment Tools? 

    The primary domestic violence assessment instruments used are:

    1) The Spousal Assault Risk Assessment Guide (SARA), a twenty-item set of risk factors (this has been used by probation departments for some time);

    2) A substance abuse screening, with referral to a certified addiction counselor if a full evaluation is necessary;


    3) The Domestic Violence Risk and Needs Assessment (DVRNA) (great weight is given to this assessment).

    Following the assessment – a determination is made as to what intensity level of treatment is appropriate.

    There are three levels of treatment:

    A (least intensive),

    B (moderately intensive),


    C (most intensive and likely longest lasting).

    Based on the evaluation and assessments, the Multidisciplinary Treatment Team (MTT) controls the determination of the initial level of treatment intensity for an offender, as well as how an offender moves through treatment. The MTT ultimately determines when an offender has completed treatment.

    The MTT includes the treatment provider; the probation officer (or judge if there is no formal probation supervision); and the Treatment Victim Advocate (employed by the treatment provider who is responsible for contacting the victim and making sure there is communication between victim and treatment provider, if the victim wants input).

    Depending on the case, the MTT also may include other treatment members, such as mental health therapists, substance abuse therapists, human services workers, and child welfare and child protection service workers. The MTT is charged with reviewing an offender’s progress through treatment at regular treatment review sessions.

     Colorado Domestic Violence Risk and Needs Assessment

     The initial treatment level is determined in part by the results of the DVRNA. There are fourteen domains (labeled A–N) taken into consideration when setting initial and subsequent levels of treatment.

    These domains are:

     A. Prior domestic violence incidents: includes violation of protection orders; present or past civil domestic-violence-related protection orders; prior arrests for domestic violence; prior unreported domestic violence incidents (in which case the offender is initially placed into Level B treatment at a minimum); and prior domestic violence convictions (automatic initial placement into level C).

    B. Drug or alcohol abuse: substance abuse/dependence within the past twelve months; substance abuse treatment in the past twelve months; or offender uses illegal drugs or illegally uses drugs in violation of prescription (automatic initial placement in level B at a minimum).

    C. Mental health issue: existing Axis I or II diagnosis (except V codes); personality disorder with anger; severe psychopathology recent psychotic and/or manic symptoms; unmanaged psychological psychiatric condition; noncompliance with medications and mental health treatment or exhibiting symptoms indicative of need for mental health evaluation (automatic initial placement in level B at a minimum).

    D. Suicidal/homicidal ideation within past twelve months; credible threats of death in past twelve months; victim report of offender making threats of harm/killing him or her; or serious ideation with intent in past twelve months (automatic initial placement in level C).

    E. Use or threatened use of weapon in current or past offense: including if gun in home, in violation of court order or access to firearms (automatic initial placement in level C).

    F. Criminal history (non-domestic-violence): being on community supervision at time of offense (automatic initial placement in level C); prior arrest for assault, harassment, or menacing (automatic initial placement in level B); or prior non-domestic-violence convictions, past violations of bond or probation, past assault on family, acquaintances, or strangers, animal cruelty or abuse.

    G. Obsession with victim: stalking, obsessive jealousy.

    H. Safety concerns: victim concerned for safety; victim believes offender capable of killing him or her; offender controls most of victim’s daily activities; offender tried to choke victim; physical violence increasing in severity; victim forced to have sex; victim pregnant at time of offense or had been abused by offender when pregnant.

    I. Violence or threat of violence toward family, including child abuse: current or past social services case; past assault on family members; child present during offense.

    J. Attitudes supportive of spousal assault: explicitly endorsing attitudes that support intimate partner assault; appears to implicitly endorse attitudes that support intimate partner assault.

    K. Offender engaged in prior domestic violence treatment (completed or not).

    L. Victim separated from offender within last six months.

    M. Unemployed (at time of offense or during treatment).

    N. Involvement with people who have pro-criminal influence: need “some criminal friends” (people offender spends leisure time with and are known to have criminal records or are involved in criminal behavior) and “some criminal acquaintances” (not close friends but associates with criminal records or are involved in criminal activity).

     Domains A–F above – are considered “significant” or “critical” factors.

     If the DVRNA reveals a significant factor, the offender must initially be placed in level B treatment at a minimum. The offender will be initially placed in level C treatment if a critical factor is present. Aside from the significant and critical factors, if an offender meets none or only one criterion, he or she is presumptively placed in Level A treatment. If an offender meets two to four risk factors, he or she is presumptively placed in Level B treatment. If an offender meets five or more factors, he or she will be presumptively placed in Level C treatment.

     The DVOMB created an “information sheet” for defendants to help them identify their treatment level and the related requirements. This Information Sheet is reprinted in Appendix 1.

     After the evaluation has been completed, the MTT determines the initial level of treatment. It is not bound by the recommendation from the DVRNA.

     Three Levels of Treatment

     Level A is a low level of intensity of treatment.

     It is designed for low-risk offenders who have one or no risk factors on the DVRNA. Level A offenders attend clinical sessions once a week. These offenders must complete at least two treatment plan reviews before they can be released from treatment. Treatment reviews occur every two to three months. The MTT can begin planning for discharge at the second treatment plan review for Level A offenders. If an offender in Level A is assessed by the MTT to be an increased risk during treatment, the MTT can move the offender into more intensive treatment; however, an offender who is not initially placed in Level A treatment cannot be moved into that treatment group.

    Level B is a moderate level of intensity.

    To be placed in Level B, an offender must have either one of the significant risk factors in the DVRNA or two to four risk factors from the remainder of the DVRNA. Level B offenders can be moved to Level C if circumstances warrant during treatment, but they cannot be moved to Level A. Level B offenders must have at least three treatment reviews. Level B offenders attend one weekly group clinical session and one additional session per month. That session can be an individual session; a clinical contact to evaluate and monitor issues (such as mental health issues); or an additional treatment for substance abuse or mental health issues.

    Level C is the highest intensity of treatment and is designed for high-risk offenders.

    To be placed in Level C, an offender must display one of the critical risk factors in the DVRNA or have five or more risk factors from the rest of the DVRNA. Level C offenders can be moved to Level B if treatment indicates and the MTT agrees, but cannot be moved to Level A. A Level C offender must complete at least three treatment reviews before discharge planning can occur. Level C offenders attend two weekly group clinical sessions. These sessions cannot be on the same day and must occur in person. One of the sessions can address domestic violence issues and the other can address substance abuse issues, if appropriate.

    There can be no mixing of Level A offenders and Level C offenders in treatment. An exception exists if it is a purely educational/lecture format.32

    The Colorado Domestic ViolenceTreatment Plan

    A treatment plan includes a “personal change plan” and an “aftercare plan.”  (see chart below )

    The offender must sign an “offender contract” that sets out responsibilities and expectations to be met while the offender is in treatment. The contract must include at least seven responsibilities for the offender to meet. Examples include remaining free from domestic violence, meeting financial responsibilities, not using alcohol or drugs, signing appropriate releases, not violating the law, meeting orders with regard to family support, and complying with all court orders regarding custody.

    In addition to the evaluation, the treatment provider must review the police reports of the subject incident and any victim statements, as well as police reports and all victim statements from all prior incidents. The treatment provider must at least attempt to obtain input from the victim and collateral persons with relevant knowledge, including professionals such as medical and mental health practitioners and any former victims.

    There are periodic treatment plan reviews where the MTT reviews an offender’s progress toward meeting the “competencies” that will allow for the completion of treatment. The first treatment plan review occurs after completion of two to three months of treatment; the second review occurs two to three months later; and subsequent reviews are conducted thereafter every two to three months. During treatment plan reviews, all members of the MTT meet to discuss each offender, review his or her progress toward meeting the “core competencies,” and eventually plan for offender discharge.

    The Basic Colorado Domestic Violence Treatment Core Competencies

    To complete treatment, an offender must actively participate in treatment and demonstrate an understanding and application of all required competencies. There are eighteen core competencies. Every offender must demonstrate an understanding and application of the eighteen core competencies to complete treatment. Some offenders will be required to complete additional competencies, depending on the circumstances. The MTT typically will assign additional competencies during treatment plan reviews.36 The core competencies are identified below.

    Competency A

    The offender demonstrates a commitment to elimination of abusive behavior: the offender eliminates physical intimidation, psychological cruelty, or coercion toward partner and children and begins developing a personal change plan approved by MTT and signed by the offender.

    Competency B

    The offender demonstrates change by working on a personal change plan: the offender implements portions of the plan, accepts that working on issues is an ongoing process, begins developing an aftercare plan, and completes the aftercare plan and is prepared to implement it after discharge.

    Competency C

    The offender completes a comprehensive personal change plan, which reflects the level of treatment and is approved by MTT, and which is driven by the offender’s risk and level of treatment.

    Competency D

    The offender develops empathy by being able to recognize and verbalize effects of actions on his or her partner, recognizes and verbalizes effects on children and others, and offers helpful and compassionate responses without turning attention to himself or herself.

    Competency E

    The offender accepts full responsibility for the offense and abusive history: discloses history of abuse toward victim and children, overcomes denial and minimization, makes increasing disclosures over time, and accepts responsibility for impact on others. The offender recognizes that abusive behavior is unacceptable, relinquishes excuses, agrees not to repeat the behavior, and does not blame others.

    Competency F

    The offender identifies and progressively reduces the pattern of power and control: recognizes that violence was made possible by offender’s behaviors and attitudes; identifies specific forms of day-to-day abuse and control (such as isolation); and demonstrates behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs congruent with equality and respect in personal relationships.

    Competency G

    The offender shows accountability: accepts responsibility and consequences for the behavior and actively tries to repair the harm and prevent future abuse. The offender recognizes and eliminates minimizations and is able to identify his or her abusive behavior, demonstrate full ownership for actions, and plan for future self-management. The offender recognizes that it is his or her responsibility alone to avoid and report future abusive behaviors.

    Competency H

    The offender accepts that his or her behavior has and should have consequences: he or she is able to identify the consequences that are the result of choices and can recognize that abusive behavior was a choice.

    Competency I

    The offender openly participates and cooperates in treatment, completes assignments, and is prepared for treatment meetings.

    Competency J

    The offender can define types of domestic violence: coercion, controlling behavior, psychological abuse, and sexual abuse. The offender can identify the types of domestic violence in which he or she engaged, can give examples and label situations correctly, and can define the continuum of behavior from healthy to abusive.

    Competency K

    The offender understands, identifies, and manages his or her personal pattern of violence by acknowledging past and present behaviors, exploring motivations, and understanding learned patterns of violence. The offender is able to disrupt a pattern before violence occurs.

    Competency L

    The offender understands inter-generational effects of violence: identifies past victimization and origin, recognizes impact of witnessed violence, acknowledges how upbringing influenced his or her behaviors, develops a plan to distance self from violent traditional tendencies including cultural roles, understands and uses time-outs.

    Competency M

    The offender understands and uses appropriate communication skills: uses non-abusive communication skills; understands difference among assertive, passive, and aggressive emotions; and demonstrates appropriate listening skills.

    Competency N

    The offender understands and uses time-outs, recognizing the need for them and other self-control skills.

    Competency O

    The offender recognizes financial abuse and management of financial responsibility by meeting financial responsibilities, and maintains legitimate employment.

    Competency P

    The offender eliminates all forms of violence and abuse by not engaging in further acts of abuse and commits to no new domestic violence offenses.

    Competency Q

    The offender does not purchase, possess, or use firearms or ammunition (unless specifically allowed by court order).

    Competency R

    The offender identifies cognitive distortions that played a role in his or her violence by understanding distorted view of self and others.

    What AreThe Types of Discharge Colorado From Domestic Violence Treatment Programs?

    There are three types of discharge from domestic violence treatment. The first is successful discharge after treatment is completed. An offender also may receive an unsuccessful discharge or an administrative discharge (when he or she cannot attend treatment because of prolonged medical issues or because he or she has moved out of state).

    There are requirements for transferring programs and readmission into treatment with the same provider. The treatment provider, MTT, and the offender have responsibilities to determine and document each discharge type.

    No Marital or Couples Counseling Is Permitted

    No couples counseling is permitted during domestic violence treatment.

    This shocks many married couples or those in long term committed relationships. Because the  offender is viewed as having to individually complete offender treatment, which does not focus on the relationship…. no couples counseling is permitted.

    Therapists believe that couples engaged in couples counseling when interpersonal violence is present often take a stance of blaming the victim and act in ways that are likely to increase the victim’s risk of injury and danger. The belief is that only after the offender has been treated and understands the core competencies of domestic violence treatment is it appropriate for the couple to work on their relationship, if doing so is desired by the parties.

    The offender must agree not to attend couples counseling as a part of the offender contract; attending such counseling would violate that contract.

    Offender Confidentiality Must Be Waived

    The offender must sign releases of confidentiality that allow the treatment provider to share information with a number of professionals. This could include therapists treating the offender, a victim advocate, the victim’s therapist, MTT members, and relevant state agencies.

    Please call our law firm if you have questions about ..

    Colorado Domestic Violence Treatment

    H. Michael Steinberg has been a Colorado criminal law specialist attorney for 40 years (as of 2012). For the First 13 years of his career, he was an Arapahoe – Douglas County District Attorney Senior  prosecutor. In 1999 he formed his own law firm for the defense of Colorado criminal cases.

    In addition to handling tens of thousands of cases in the trial courts of Colorado, he has written hundreds of articles regarding the practice of Colorado criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on the Fox News Channel, CNN and Various National and Local Newspapers and Radio Stations.  Please call him at your convenience at 720-220-2277

    If you have questions about Colorado Domestic Violence Treatment in the Denver metropolitan area and throughout Colorado, attorney H. Michael Steinberg will be pleased to answer those questions and to provides quality legal representation to those charged in Colorado adult and juvenile criminal matters.

    In the Denver metropolitan area and throughout Colorado, attorney H. Michael Steinberg provides quality legal representation to those charged in Colorado adult and juvenile criminal matters. as regards Colorado Domestic Violence Treatment.

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    H. Michael Steinberg Esq.
    Attorney and Counselor at Law
    The Colorado Criminal Defense Law Firm of H. Michael Steinberg
    A Denver, Colorado Lawyer Focused Exclusively On
    Colorado Criminal Law For Over 40 Years.
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