Wednesday, October 20, 2010

New Domestic Violence Treatment Standards Can Spell Longer Terms of Court-Ordered Treatment

Starting this fall, treatment standards for persons convicted of crimes constituting an act of domestic violence have changed dramatically. Colorado law stipulates that, in addition to any other sentence imposed by the court, a person convicted of a crime constituting an act of domestic violence must undergo an evaluation and complete a treatment program recommended by the evaluation. Formerly, most persons entering the statutorily-required counseling could basically count on a 36-week treatment regimen. However, the new standards do not place a minimum or maximum period standard, but rather requires offenders be periodically evaluated and meet acceptable levels of knowledge and acceptance of treatment principles. Basically, first-time offenders will be assigned to a treatment provider, evaluated, and assigned a level of treatment--A, B or C, in ascending order of intensity based on risk assessment of the offender. Once the treatment plan is commenced, the offender is evaluated every 2-3 months on his progress, and will be discharged from the program only when the Multidisciplinary Treatment Team (provider, probation and victim advocate) or "MTT" agrees the offender demonstrates knowledge of Core Competencies related to domestic violence and there is sufficiently-low risk of re-offense. High-risk or repeat offenders cannot be assigned to entry, or A, level treatment.

In summary, the term of domestic violence treatment programs, not unlike sex offender treatment programs, has become indefinite. The fate of offenders entering the program lies with the evaluation of the MTT and will not likely result in shorter periods of treatment, but longer ones. It is possible under the system to complete treatment in a few months, but terms of less than six months will be extremely rare, while terms of a year or more will become more commonplace. Given the implications of these new standards, it is more important than ever to consult experienced legal counsel to navigate this serious and complex area of criminal offenses.