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Aurora considers moving misdemeanor domestic violence cases to county courts

The City of Aurora is considering a change to the way it handles misdemeanor domestic violence cases.

Council members are weighing the pros and cons of moving misdemeanor domestic violence cases out of municipal court and into county courts.

Mayor Pro-Tem Dustin Zvonek plans to bring the resolution forward on June 24. He said it could save taxpayers $3 million per year and could free up space so the municipal court could take on other types of cases. Councilmember Danielle Jurinsky supports the idea.

“A lot of times, especially the petty theft, those types of cases are dismissed in our court,” said Jurinsky. “Retail theft, petty theft, robbery, any of those at the misdemeanor level. That would free up our courts to focus more on those, which I feel is a huge outcry from our residents.”

Aurora is one of few cities in Colorado where municipal courts handle misdemeanor domestic violence cases. If the resolution passes, by January 1, 2025, the municipal court in Aurora would not take any new misdemeanor domestic violence cases.

Skeptics are concerned that the change could delay justice for domestic violence survivors due to capacity issues in county courts.

“My belief is that the DA’s will, in fact, prioritize these because these are important cases,” said Zvonek. “Even the ones that are misdemeanor level.”

Zvonek said there may be satellite courts for people who have trouble traveling to the county courts. The city manager, court administrator, and city attorney would develop a plan to process the cases that remain in the municipal court.

Councilmember Alison Coombs said the misdemeanor domestic violence cases aren’t causing the problem the resolution aims to solve.

“Our insistence on implementing and pursuing mandatory minimum sentencing for certain crimes, that is resulting in those cost and capacity issues,” said Coombs.

Critics of the proposal also question the timing of it.

“A year ago in the legislative session, there was an effort to take away the municipal court’s ability to prosecute domestic violence, and that was really being led by victims rights groups,” said Zvonek. “We opposed it at the time because we feel like our — and I give our courts a lot of credit — they do a great job at these cases. I just no longer believe it’s their responsibility. I think they should go to county.”

While Coombs can see some benefits of the proposal, she said the change could require a lot of effort.

“I would only support this with a significant amount of planning and coordination,” said Coombs. “These are cases that we have been filing and processing at our city level for decades.”

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, help is available through Violence Free Colorado or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233.

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