“PPIR” and Domestic Violence Cases in Colorado Springs

The police arrested me and charged me with a domestic violence-based crime in Colorado Springs, and the District Attorney is asking if I want to do a PPIR. What does he mean?

This blog post is not legal advice. To retain counsel, please contact one of the attorneys at Dahl, Fischer & Wilks LLC.

Colorado Springs is part of Colorado’s Fourth Judicial District—which encompasses El Paso County and Teller County. And in what we believe is unique among Colorado jurisdictions, the District Attorney’s Office in the 4th will sometimes offer defendants a PPIR—which stands for “Pre-Plea Investigation Report.” But what is that, exactly?

A little bit of background first. Colorado does not have a true separate charge for domestic violence (D.V.) offenses. Instead, in Colorado, a crime charged with the domestic violence aggravator (the definition of “domestic violence” comes from C.R.S. 18-6-800.3), requires additional classes and treatment if the court sentences a person to probation. The domestic violence aggravator can apply to virtually any crime against a person or property.

The DV aggravator does not, generally speaking, increase the length of someone’s sentence. The DV aggravator does make some sentences unavailable. For instance, a person may not serve an in-home detention sentence in the home of the victim under C.R.S. 18-6-801(4). If the aggravator does not increase a sentence, then why should you worry about it?

Well, the aggravator has HUGE effects for persons convicted of a crime along with the domestic violence aggravator. No criminal conviction is good, but a conviction for a domestic violence related offense is one that comes with a host of what we in law call “collateral consequences.” First, a domestic violence related conviction generally prohibits a person from possessing firearms due to aspects of federal law. Which creates huge employment issues for police officers, soldiers, and others who must possess a firearm for their work—not to mention outdoorsmen who like to hunt or recreational shooters. But a domestic violence related conviction can also affect a person’s security clearance, can clearly influence perceptions in divorce cases, and in an “at-will” employment state like Colorado it can cost you your job. Having three misdemeanor domestic violence related convictions makes someone a habitual domestic violence offender (upping the charge to a Class Five Felony).

The legislature also made is more difficult for attorneys to negotiate in cases involving the DV designation. They did so because under C.R.S. 18-6-801(3), the trial court may not allow a person to plead guilty in a case involving the domestic violence designation to a non-domestic violence related offense unless the district attorney “makes a good faith representation on the record that such attorney would not be able to establish a prima facie case” that there was no intimate relationship between the parties. And further, the trial court cannot accept a plea to a non-DV offense unless the prosecutor makes “a good faith representation” that “he or she would be unable to establish a prima facie case if the defendant were brought to trial on the original offense.”

Obviously, the Colorado legislature takes even low-level domestic violence offenses very seriously.

So, what is the deal with a PPIR? The district attorney’s office in Colorado Springs, on very low-level offenses, will sometimes offer a defendant the chance to go through a pre-plea evaluation. Essentially, the process requires the defendant to contact one of two agencies (at the time of this post) to set up an intake appointment. The agencies involved in this program are agencies that traditionally help serve victims of domestic violence.

The cost of the PPIR runs between $100 and $300 and is based on a sliding scale related to income. The evaluator reviews the discovery in the case (the police reports, witness statements, etc.) and the defendant must fill out a lengthy questionnaire. The evaluator reviews that, reviews the discovery, and then has an in-person meeting with the defendant. The time commitment for the defendant is usually about three hours in total spread over two appointments.

The evaluator prepares a report about the incident including a conclusion about the alleged offense. For instance, the evaluator can find the event was not a domestic violence related event, was a “situational” violence event, or can find the event was emblematic of a “battery” situation. Depending on the finding, the district attorney’s office may 1) dismiss the charges in total; 2) have ammunition to offer a plea agreement without the DV aggravator; or 3) elect to proceed on the charges in the case.

There are some possible downsides to engaging in the PPIR process. First, as part of the PPIR process, the district attorney agrees to not use the statements the accused makes during the process against him or her in the criminal trial. That being said, such statements could conceivably cause problems in other contexts, so there is a risk. Second, the district attorney usually revokes any pending offer in the case pending completion of the PPIR process. So, a negative finding from the evaluator, i.e. that this was battery behavior, means the district could offer something worse to the accused after the evaluation.

So, should you engage in the process? The answer to that question requires an analysis of the facts of your case, the risks you face, and the experience of a qualified criminal defense attorney to help you make a good decision.

A side note—this program is unique among Colorado jurisdictions. And the district attorney’s office in the Fourth Judicial District deserves some credit for at least exploring this option.

Samuel A. Evig