Aron Ralston, the hiker who cut off his own arm to free himself from a dislodged boulder and who became the subject of the movie “127 Hours,” was arrested on Saturday night on domestic violence assault and wrongs to minors charges. The owner of the property where the altercation took place is Vita Shannon. Shannon was also arrested and faces the same charges as Ralston. Ralston is scheduled for a hearing in Denver County Court on Monday afternoon.
Domestic violence charges present unique circumstances to law enforcement, the courts and prosecutors. For example, when police get called out to investigate a domestic incident, if the police have probable cause to believe a domestic violence crime has been committed, the police must arrest the suspect; police do not have the option to issue the suspect a summons or ticket. Once a person is arrested, a bond must be posted before they can be released. If a person is arrested on domestic violence charges, the person is held on a no bond hold, meaning there is no bond that can be posted until the suspect appears in court. If a person is arrested on a Friday night, they may not be seen by a judge until Monday, which means the suspect must spend the entire weekend in jail. When a person is charged with domestic violence crimes, the prosecution is prohibited from offering a plea bargain that is not an act of domestic violence if the prosecution believes there is a prima facie case that the crime was committed as an act of domestic violence.
Unfortunately, all of these unique circumstances are detrimental to the person charged. In addition, a mandatory protection order must enter, which may displace the person charged from the family home and prohibit the person charged from having contact with their spouse and/or children.
Domestic violence charges not only present issues at the outset, but may also present collateral issues upon conviction. For example, people convicted of a domestic violence charge are governed by a federal law that prohibits the ownership of guns. Domestic violence charges may have serious immigration consequences for people who are not United States citizens.
Because there are so many potential consequences related to domestic violence charges, many of which occur almost immediately upon arrest, it is important to consult with an attorney early in the proceedings.
Source: Denver Post, Tom McGhee, 12/08/13