Colorado “Stand Your Ground” Law: Explained

colorado self defense laws

If you live in Colorado, understanding the state’s “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law could help you make critical decisions to protect yourself or your family.

Colorado’s “Make My Day” statute outlines when and how you can legally use force – even deadly force – for self-defense or to prevent a crime from occurring. It’s an expansive law that provides strong self-defense rights, but it also has complexities.

When can you stand your ground, and when must you retreat first? Can you use force to defend property? How does the “Castle Doctrine” allow self-defense rights in your home?

At Right Law Group, we believe in empowering you with knowledge. This guide takes a deep dive into the intricacies of Colorado’s self-defense laws, ensuring you’re equipped to stand your ground with confidence and legal clarity.

But First… What Exactly is Self-defense?

Self-defense is the inherent right to protect oneself from harm or injury using reasonable force. It stems from the basic human instinct of survival. Legally speaking, self-defense can be invoked as a justification when a person believes that they face a genuine threat of physical harm.

It’s not a carte blanche excuse for violence, though. The force used in self-defense must be proportionate to the threat faced, and the person asserting the defense often must reasonably believe that there was no other viable option to avoid the danger.

In the courtroom, self-defense can serve as an “affirmative defense,” a powerful tool to counteract accusations of violent crimes. This means that if a person can prove they acted in legitimate self-defense, they might be acquitted of charges like assault or even homicide. But remember… the standards and requirements for what constitutes “legitimate” self-defense can vary from state to state. In Colorado, as we’ll explore, there are specific criteria and scenarios where self-defense is legally recognized. Understanding these nuances is crucial for anyone wanting to be well-informed about their rights in potential confrontations or altercations.

When is Self-defense Justified in Colorado?

The use of physical force upon another person is legally justified in self-defense when several conditions are met under Colorado law:

  • The person using force reasonably believes it is necessary to defend themselves or another person.
  • The physical force involved is the product of the other person’s imminent use or imminent use of unlawful physical force.
  • The person using physical force uses only a degree of force they reasonably believe is necessary for self-defense.

This means individuals cannot claim they acted in self-defense when using force. Several reasonableness requirements must be met regarding the perceived threat and degree of force used in response.

Colorado statutes specify that a person is justified in using physical force upon another person to defend themselves or a third person from what they reasonably believe to be the use or imminent use of unlawful physical force by that other person. They may only use a degree of force that they reasonably believe to be necessary for that purpose [C.R.S. §18-1-704].

When Can You Use Deadly Force for Self-Defense in Colorado?

Deadly physical force, which can cause serious bodily injury or death, is justifiable in self-defense only if you reasonably believe that the other person is about to use unlawful deadly force against you or someone else.

For instance, if an intruder enters your home brandishing a weapon, Colorado law supports your right to employ deadly force in self-defense. But, if you were to shoot an unarmed burglar who’s running away, the force you’ve used might be deemed excessive.

Complex scenarios, such as those involving domestic violence, defending others, or confrontations in public spaces, can introduce a myriad of legal intricacies when it comes to the justification of deadly force. In such intricate situations, collaborating with a seasoned criminal defense attorney becomes invaluable. Their knowledge can help you navigate the complexities of the law and ensure that your rights are robustly protected.

What is Colorado’s Make My Day law?

Colorado’s well-known “Make My Day” law provides certain protections for individuals using deadly force against intruders in their own homes.

Under the “Make My Day” law in Colorado:

  • Occupants have no duty to retreat before using deadly force against intruders.
  • There is a legal presumption that any force used against intruders in a dwelling is reasonable.
  • Occupants cannot be held civilly liable for using force against intruders.

This means occupants who use deadly force against intruders who forcibly enter their homes do not have a “duty to retreat” first under Colorado law. The law also presumes the use of force was reasonable and occupants cannot be sued by injured intruders.

However, there are limitations. The Make My Day law only applies to dwellings, not vehicles or outside spaces. And deadly force cannot be used against law enforcement acting in official duties.

When Does the “Stand Your Ground Law” Apply in Colorado?

Unlike states with specific Stand Your Ground laws, Colorado uses a hybrid Castle Doctrine. Someone acting in justified self-defense generally has no duty to retreat before using physical force in their home or in a place they legally occupy.

However, outside of the home, the ability to use force under Stand Your Ground becomes limited. Duty to retreat may apply before using deadly force in public unless doing so would further endanger you or others.

Asserting Self-Defense Against Criminal Charges

Acting in justified self-defense serves as an affirmative defense to assault, homicide, and other criminal charges in Colorado. However, the prosecution typically decides if an act was lawful self-defense.

However, there are limitations. Self-defense generally cannot justify the use of force in the commission of certain serious felonies.

And for certain crimes like murder, defendants typically must show they acted in justifiable self-defense rather than simply providing evidence of self-defense to raise reasonable doubt. Consulting with a knowledgeable Colorado criminal defense attorney is crucial.

Your Roadmap to Right: Colorado’s Self-Defense Laws

In a state renowned for its spirit of independence and personal freedom, it’s essential that we all fully grasp the extent and limitations of our rights. At Right Law Group, we’re not just legal professionals; we are Coloradans dedicated to ensuring our neighbors are protected, informed, and empowered.

Your journey in understanding self-defense doesn’t have to be one you take alone. Lean on us as your trusted advocates if you find yourself facing criminal charges.

When questions arise, or if the unexpected happens, don’t feel overwhelmed. Let us be your beacon in Colorado Springs, guiding you through complex legal terrains with compassion and experience.
Let’s face the future confidently together. Contact us today for a free consultation.

Author Bio

alexis austin

Alexis Austin is the CEO and Managing Partner of Right Law Group, a criminal defense law firm she founded in 2018, with convenient locations in Colorado Springs, Castle Rock and Highlands Ranch. With almost a decade of experience in criminal defense, she has zealously represented clients in a wide range of legal matters, including DUIs, misdemeanors, felonies, domestic violence, and other criminal charges.

Alexis received her Juris Doctor from the University of Denver — Sturm College of Law and is a member of the Colorado Bar Association. She has received numerous accolades for her work, including being named among the “Top 40 Under 40” in 2018 by The National Trial Lawyers and featured in Authority Magazine’s “Top Lawyers” series.

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