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Know the Laws: Colorado

UPDATED September 18, 2017

Protection Orders for Stalking, Sexual Assault, Physical Harm/Threats, and Abuse of Elderly/At-Risk Adult

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This protection order is a civil order designed to stop violent, threatening, harassing, stalking or sexually abusive behavior and to protect you and your family members from an abuser.  You may be eligible for one even if you are not related to the abuser and not in an intimate relationship with him/her.

Basic info and definitions

back to topWhat is a protection order for stalking, sexual assault, physical harm/threats abuse of the elderly/ at-risk adult?

Similar to a protection order for domestic violence, this type of protection order is an official court order designed to stop violent, threatening, harassing, stalking or sexually abusive behavior or emotionally abusive behavior to an elderly or at-risk adult and to protect you and your family members from anyone who is harming you regardless of your relationship to that person.*  You can apply for one whether or not you are related to the abuser or in an intimate relationship with him/her.  It can prohibit the restrained person (the abuser) from contacting, harassing, stalking, injuring, intimidating, or threatening you and may forbid the restrained person from entering or remaining in a specific place or from coming within a certain distance of you or your home.  Also, a protection order can prohibit the abuser from threatening, taking, transferring, concealing or harming an animal owned by the protected person.**

* See Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-14-104.5(1)(a)
* See Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-14-101(2.4)(a)

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back to topWhat is the legal definition of stalking?

Below, we define stalking according to Colorado law.  Please note that for the purposes of getting a protection order, however, you can be a victim of stalking or of any attempted act or threatened act of stalking.*  Stalking can happen in two ways.

The first definition of stalking is when someone directly, or indirectly through another person, makes a threat, physical action, or repeated conduct that causes you to be in fear for your safety or the safety of your immediate family or intimate partner.  As a way of making you fearful, the stalker must do one of the following to you, your immediate family or intimate partner:

  • repeatedly follow, approach, contact or put under surveillance; or
  • repeatedly make any form of communication (i.e., phone calls, texts, emails). Note: it does not matter if any words are spoken or not – for example, the stalker can keep calling and hanging up.**
The second definition of stalking is when someone directly, or indirectly through another person, repeatedly follows, approaches, contacts, places under surveillance, or makes any form of communication with you, your immediate family or intimate partner that causes you, your immediate family or intimate partner to suffer serious emotional distress (pain).**

Note: “Immediate family” means your spouse, parent, grandparent, sibling, or child.***

The big difference between the two definitions is that the first one involves the stalker causing you to fear for the safety of you or your family and the second one does not.  In the second one, the behavior must cause you to be seriously distressed (upset) but you don’t necessarily have to fear for your life or safety.

* Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-14-101(3)
** Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-3-602(1)
*** Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-3-602(2)(c)

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back to topWhat is the legal definition of sexual assault?

For the purposes of getting a protection order, sexual assault or sexual abuse means any act, attempted act, or threatened act of unlawful sexual behavior.*  "Unlawful sexual behavior" can include many sex-based crimes such as sexual penetration or intrusion (such as inserting an object) against your will and without your consent, touching your intimate parts or forcing you to touch the abuser's intimate parts.  Sexual assault/abuse can occur by physical force, coercion, threat or trickery.  This includes situations in which a victim is drunk, drugged, unconscious, or otherwise unable to consent.**

Also included in the definition of sexual assault is what is commonly known as “statutory rape” – where the sexual act is consensual (agreed to by both people) but either:

  • The victim is under 15 and the offender is at least 4 years older than the victim or
  • The victim is under 17 (is 15 or 16) and the offender is at least 10 years older than the victim.***
Exception: if the couple is married to each other, and the sexual act is consensual, it does not qualify as statutory rape.***

Note: There are many other sex-based crimes that are considered unlawful sexual behavior that may qualify you for a protection order.****  To read the whole statute, go to our CO Statutes page and read section 16-11.7-102, subsection (3).

* Colo. Rev. Stat. §13-14-101(2.9)
** Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-3-402(1)(a)-(c),(h)
*** Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-3-402(1)(d)-(e)
**** See Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 13-14-101(2.9), 16-11.7-102(3)

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back to topWhat is the legal definition of physical assault/harm?

A person commits physical assault if s/he causes bodily harm (injury) to another.*  The law also allows you to apply for a protection order if you are not injured but the abuser threatens you with physical harm/injury.**

* Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 18-3-202 ; 18-3-203; 18-3-204
** Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-14-104.5(1)(A)(I)

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back to topWhat is the legal definition of abuse of the elderly or an at-risk adult?

An at-risk adult is someone who is susceptible to mistreatment or self-neglect because:

  • s/he is unable to take care of his/her own health, safety, or welfare; or
  • s/he lacks sufficient understanding or capacity to make or communicate responsible decisions concerning his/her body or affairs.*

An elderly person is defined as someone who is age 60 or older.**

Mistreatment of an elderly person or an at-risk adult can include repeated acts of:

  • Verbal threats, assaults or harassment;
  • Giving you medicine improperly, or threatening to give you medicine improperly;
  • Physically or chemically (through medication or drugs) restraining you inappropriately; or
  • Using his or her authority (as a guardian or conservator) to unreasonably confine you or restrict your liberty (in other words, treating you like a prisoner); or
  • Threatening violence or using actual violence against the animal of an elderly person or at-risk adult, or taking, hiding or getting rid of his/her animal with the intention to coerce, control, punish, intimidate, or get revenge upon the elderly person or at-risk adult.**

Additionally, abuse of an at-risk adult can also mean any of the following:

  • causing physical pain or injury, which can be proven by substantial or multiple bruises, bleeding, malnutrition, dehydration, burns, bone fractures, poisoning, subdural hematoma (bleeding on the brain), soft tissue swelling, or suffocation;
  • unreasonable confinement or restraint; 
  • criminal sexual conduct or sexual contact;
  • caretaker neglect;
  • exploitation; or
  • any act or failure to act that threatens the health, safety, or welfare of an at-risk adult or that exposes him/her to a situation or condition that poses an immediate risk of bodily injury.***

(For more detailed definitions of caretaker neglect and exploitation as they apply to an at-risk adult, please see our CO Statutes page).

* Colo. Rev. Stat. § 26-3.1-101(1.5)
** Colo. Rev. Stat. §13-14-101(1)
*** Colo. Rev. Stat. § 26-3.1-101(1),(7)

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back to topWhat is the legal definition of abuse of the elderly? or at-risk adult?

Abuse of the elderly is defined as the mistreatment of a person sixty years of age or older.  Abuse of an at-risk adult is mistreatment or exploitation of anyone over the age of 18 who, due to incapacity (mental or physical injury) or lack of understanding, is unable to take care of himself/herself.* 

In both situations, the "mistreatment" can include repeated acts of:

  • Verbal threats, assaults or harassment;
  • Giving you medicine improperly, or threatening to give you medicine improperly;
  • Physically or chemically (through medication or drugs) restraining you inappropriately; or
  • Using his or her authority (as a guardian or conservator) to unreasonably confine you or restrict your liberty (in other words, treating you like a prisoner); or
  • Threatening violence or using actual violence against the animal of an elderly person or at-risk adult, or taking, hiding or getting rid of his/her animal with the intention to coerce, control, punish, intimidate, or get revenge upon the elderly person or at-risk adult.**

(For more detailed definitions of mistreatment and exploitation as they apply to an at-risk adult, please see our CO Statutes page).

* Colo. Rev. Stat. § 26-3.1-101(1)
** Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-14-101(1)

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back to topWhat types of protection orders are there? How long do they last?

There are a three types of civil protection orders, which are described below.  The first two can be issued regardless of whether or not you have called the police about the abuse.* 

1. Temporary (ex parte) Protection Orders
: A temporary (ex parte) protection order can be issued if the judge believes that you are in immediate danger.*1  (Note: "Ex parte" means that you can get the order without the abuser being notified beforehand or present in court.)  The judge is not supposed to deny you the order based solely on the fact that the act of abuse or threat of harm happened a while before you filed for the order.*1   A temporary (ex parte) protection order is designed to protect you during the time that it takes for your full court hearing for a permanent order to take place, which is usually within the next 14 days.*2  The order is not enforceable until the abuser is personally served.*3

2. Permanent Protection Orders
: When both you and the abuser return to court for the hearing after you get a temporary protection order, the judge can either:

  • continue the temporary protection order for up to 1 year (if both parties are present at the hearing and both agree to the continuance); or
  • if the judge determines that the abuser has committed the act(s) that you allege and that without the order, s/he will continue to commit such acts or will intimidate or retaliate against you, the judge can grant you a permanent protection order (with provisions different from the temporary protection order, if necessary).*4  
Note: Permanent protection orders can sometimes cover temporary care and custody of minor children.  However, even if your permanent protection order lasts for many years, the part of the permanent protection order that deals with custody can only last for one year.*5  To get a long-term custody order, you would likely have to file a separate custody petition – we suggest talking to a lawyer about how to do this.  You can find free and paid lawyers on our CO Finding a Lawyer page.

3. Emergency Protection Orders:
An emergency protection order can be requested by local law enforcement based on the belief that an adult is in immediate and present danger of domestic abuse, assault, stalking, sexual assault/abuse.  This type of order last only for a few days and is generally issued when the courts are closed or if you file for a temporary ex parte protection order but the judge cannot hold a hearing on the same day you file.*6

* Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-14-104.5(1)(b)
*1 Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-14-104.5(7)(a)
*2 Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-14-104.5(10)
*3 See Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-14-104.5(9)
*4 Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-14-106(1)(a),(b)
*5 Colo. Rev. Stat. §13-14-105(1)(e)(I)
*6 Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-14-103(1)(e),(f)

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back to topHow can a protection order help me?

A temporary or permanent protection order may:

  • order the abuser to stop hitting, threatening, or harming you or your children;
  • order the abuser to stay away from you and/or your children;
  • order the abuser to stop contacting you and/or your children;
  • order the abuser to move out of the home you share or out of your home (if you can prove that physical or emotional harm would happen if s/he stayed in the home);
  • order the abuser to stay away from your home;
  • order the abuser to not interfere with your job or school or do anything that would harm your employment or educational relationships/environment;
  • give you temporary care and control of your children and order parenting time rights, supervised or unsupervised (this part of the order only lasts up to 1 year); and grant you temporary decision-making responsibility when it is related to preventing domestic abuse or preventing the child from witnessing domestic abuse;
  • order the abuser to continue to make payments on the mortgage or rent, insurance, utilities and related household services, transportation, medical care, or child care when the respondent has an existing duty or legal obligation;
  • order the abuser to not hide or get rid of your personal effects, land, or homes that are yours alone or shared with the abuser;
  • order the abuser to not threaten, harm, kill, hide or take any animal owned by you or by a child of you or the abuser;
  • make specific arrangements for the possession and care of an animal owned by you or by a child of you or the abuser;*
  • depending on the circumstances, order the abuser to not have or buy any firearm or ammunition for the duration of the order and to give up any that s/he currently has in his/her possession or control to a licensed firearms dealer, private party or to law enforcement;** and
  • do anything else that the judge thinks is necessary for your safety.*
An emergency protection order (these are different than temporary ex parte orders) can do any of the following:
  • order that the abuser stop contacting, harassing, injuring, intimidating, threatening, molesting, touching, stalking, sexually assaulting or abusing the victim, the victim's child or the abuser's child;
  • order that the abuser be removed from the home you share or from your home if it is shown that physical or emotional harm would otherwise happen;
  • give temporary care and control of any minor child involved;
  • order the abuser to not contact a minor child at school, at work, or wherever s/he may be found;
  • order the abuser to not threaten, harm, kill, hide or take any animal owned by the victim or by a child of either party; and/or
  • make specific arrangements for the possession and care of an animal owned by the victim or by a child of either party.***
Whether a judge orders all or some of the above depends on the facts of your case.

* Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 13-14-105(1)(a)-(j)(I), 13-14-104.5(8)
** Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-14-105.5(1)(a) & (2)(c)
*** Colo. Rev. Stat § 13-14-103(1)(b)

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WomensLaw.org thanks Andrea, CourtWatch Coordinator at Project Safeguard, for her helpful revisions on these pages.

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