Boulder District court judges, and judges across the state, must now order that domestic violence offenders and convicted stalkers be kept in custody pending their sentencing, according to an amended Colorado law.
Anyone who pleads guilty or is found guilty of felony stalking or habitual domestic violence will have their bond revoked between conviction and sentencing, according to the law that started Wednesday.
Boulder Deputy District Attorney Tim Johnson, senior domestic violence prosecutor since 2004, said the law is an important step to ensuring victim's safety and peace of mind during the vulnerable time. He said he expects to request bond revocation in a few future cases.
"Having this no bond in place allows (victims) that pause, that time frame where they don't need to be looking over their shoulder because they know their offender is in jail pending sentencing," he said.
The law already disallowed a court from granting bond to someone found guilty of crimes of violence or of the possession of a weapon by a previous offender.
Johnson said that in domestic violence cases, when victims try to leave their offenders by either getting protection orders or trying to end the relationships, the offender acts out. He said a conviction or guilty plea also heightens the chance the offender will react against the victim.
"Oftentimes when that happens, offenders can kind of become desperate with this idea that they're going to lose control, they're going to lose that other person and so they act out violently and often lethally," Johnson said. "That was the reason for the change."
In the high-profile case of Robert Vinyard, who was accused of stalking a Longmont woman since the 1970s and was found not guilty by reason of insanity in 2005, the law would not have applied.
"Once we got him into custody, he stayed in custody because his bonds were so high," Johnson said.
But for offenders who could meet bond, he said, the law brings some sense of security to victims following conviction.
Johnson said out of six habitual domestic violence cases resolved in the last year, two offenders pleaded to habitual domestic violence. Out of 33 stalking cases resolved in the last year, he said 13 offenders pleaded guilty to stalking.
"So I think it is safe to say that, depending on the number of cases filed, this law will have a significant effect as historically there is a considerable percentage of convictions for those charges," he said.
Another law that went into effect Wednesday was the removal of the mandate that medical personnel actively treating a domestic violence injury report to law enforcement unless there was a gun or knife used or unless the victim suffered serious bodily injury, Johnson said.
"The doctor may, in their discretion, make a report, but it is no longer mandatory," he said.
The law also requires medical personnel to provide a victim with domestic violence resources.
Johnson said part of the law would seemingly encourage victims to get their injuries treated immediately, but experts also know that victims make excuses to explain their injuries. He also said victims might not know that if they report injuries to medical personnel, it won't be reported to law enforcement.