Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Colorado Supreme Court People v. Disher 07SC1088

   Decision here.

   Disher, who had been dating M.P., called her over 100 times between a couple of days less than a month after the two of them broke up.  He also showed up at her workplace, but left when asked to.  Then he came into her apartment, refused to leave when asked to, and got into an argument with her.  M.P. went outside and found a security guard who she asked for help.  The security guard tried to remove Disher from M.P.'s apartment, but Disher called 911 (dumbass!).  The police showed up and arrested Disher after a brief struggle.

   At the trial, M.P. testified that she and Disher had dated exclusively, but did not testify that they had had a sexual relationship.  Disher was convicted of harassment and obstructing an officer, but because there was no evidence that M.P. and Disher had been sexually intimate, the court held that this was not a crime of domestic violence.  The people appealed.

   The relevant portion of the Colorado DV statute define domestic violence as "an act or threatened act of violence upon a person with whom the actor is or has been involved in an intimate relationship. 'Domestic violence' also includes any other crime against a person, or against property, including an animal, or any municipal ordinance violation against a person, or against property, including an animal, when used as a method of coercion, control, punishment, intimidation, or revenge directed against a person with whom the actor is or has been involved in an intimate relationship."  And 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 at any time."

   The court held that nowhere in all of that does it say that sexual intimacy is a prerequisite of an intimate relationship.  The court held that sexual intimacy may be an indicator, but not a requirement.  The court described that in order to qualify as an intimate relationship, the  relationship must be more than that of a roommate, friend, or acquaintance; there must be a romantic attachment or shared parental status between the parties.

   (I've known some officers who take the "sexual intimacy" misunderstanding even farther, and believe that it is the final test whether or not there is an intimate relationship.  I once heard one such officer explain straight faced to a suspect that if someone sleeps with a hooker who he has never met, and then sees her again years later and gets in a fight with her, that this is DV.  Although that wasn't quite the issue before the court in this case, I think the court's decision makes it pretty clear that circumstances like that would not fall under the DV statute.  This is why I don't ask people in possible DV cases if they have been sexually intimate, I usually just ask if they were ever a couple.)