March 21, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: Consent Not Available as Affirmative Defense to Violation of Protection Order

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Hotsenpiller v. Hon. Bennet A. Morris on Thursday, July 13, 2017.

C.R.C.P. 106(a)(4)—Affirmative Defense of Consent—C.R.S. § 18-1-505.

J.C. obtained a temporary civil protection order (CPO), issued on JDF 399, against her ex-boyfriend Hartsuff. The county court made the CPO permanent in 2015. Among other things, the CPO states that it does not expire and only the court can change it. It prohibits contact of any kind and includes a notice to the protected person that she cannot give the restrained person permission to change or ignore the order. The restrained person is similarly notified that if he violates the order because he believes the protected person has given permission, he is wrong and can be arrested and prosecuted.

J.C. called the police and stated Hartsuff was on her front porch threatening her. In addition, J.C. showed the responding officer text messages and logs of phone calls from Hartsuff over the previous two days. Hartsuff was charged with harassment and violation of a protection order, both as acts of domestic violence.

Hartsuff raised the affirmative defense of consent, which the trial court allowed. The district attorney sought judicial review pursuant to C.R.C.P. 106(a)(4), contending that the harm sought to be prevented by the CPO statute is broader than simply contact between the protected and restrained persons and includes preserving the integrity of a court order and preventing domestic violence. The district court found no abuse of discretion and remanded to proceed with trial. The district attorney appealed. The sole issue on appeal was whether the affirmative defense of consent as defined in C.R.S. § 18-1-505 is available to a defendant who is criminally charged with violating a CPO.

The court of appeals considered the entire statutory scheme relating to the offense of a violation of a protective order to give effect and meaning to all its parts. Under C.R.S. § 18-1-505, the defense of consent of the victim is not available to any crime unless “the consent negatives an element of the offense or precludes the infliction of the harm or evil sought to be prevented by the law defining the offense.” The court found the “harm or evil” clause ambiguous and unclear. It therefore examined the legislative history, consequences of a given construction, and goals of the relevant statutes. Following an extensive analysis, the court concluded it was error as a matter of law to allow the affirmative defense of consent for the crime of violation of a protection order.

The order was reversed and the case was remanded to the county court with instructions to preclude Hartsuff from asserting consent as an affirmative defense to the violation of a protection order charge.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

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