Use of Excessive Force
CRS 18-8-803 and Duty to Report Use of Force CRS 18-8-803

In Colorado, police officers who use excessive force can face criminal charges. Under CRS 18-8-803, if the force used exceeds the degree of force allowed to police officers, they may be charged with a criminal offense like any other citizen. Additionally, under CRS 18-8-802, other officers are required to report the use of excessive force by other officers. In this article, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers will address:

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Under Colorado law, “excessive force” means physical force used by a peace officer which exceeds the degree of physical force permitted by law.

1. What is excessive force?

Under Colorado law, “excessive force” means physical force used by a peace officer which exceeds the degree of physical force permitted by law. The use of excessive force is presumed when a police officer continues to apply physical force in excess of the force permitted to a person who has been rendered incapable of resisting arrest.

If a peace officer uses excessive force in pursuit of their law enforcement duties, they shall be subject to the criminal laws of Colorado to the same degree of any other citizen. This includes the assault and homicide.1

2. How much force are police allowed to use?

Police officers are allowed to use physical force when making an arrest or in preventing an escape.2 The amount of force allowed depends on the type of force used and the threat to the police officer or a third person.

A peace officer is justified in using reasonable and appropriate physical force upon another person when he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to make an arrest, prevent an arrested person from making an escape, or to defend the officer or another from what he or she believes to be the use of imminent physical force.

A peace officer is justified in using deadly physical force only when the officer believes it is reasonably necessary to defend the officer or another from the use of imminent deadly physical force, or to make an arrest or prevent an escape from someone who has committed a felony involving the use of a deadly weapon, or indicates a likelihood to inflict serious bodily injury or endanger to human life.3

An officer is justified in using a chokehold on another person only when he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to effect an arrest or prevent an escape of someone who has committed a felony involving use of a deadly weapon, attempting escape by use of physical force, or indicates a likelihood to inflict serious bodily injury or endanger to human life.4

3. What are the penalties for use of excessive force?

The penalties for use of excessive force depend on the amount of force used, the victim, and the injuries involved. If the police officer exceeds the degree of force permitted by law, they may face common criminal charges like any other individual. This includes the criminal offenses of assault, murder, or manslaughter.

Second-degree murder involves the knowing killing of another without premeditation.5 The penalties for second-degree murder include 4 to 48 years in prison and fines of up to $1 million. Manslaughter involves recklessly causing the death of another.6 Penalties include 2 to 16 years in prison and fines of up to $500,000.

Assault in charged in the first, second, or third degree, depend on the specific facts of the case. Penalties for assault depend on the degree, and can range from 6 months in jail up to 32 years in prison.

4. Do police have a duty to report the use of force by other officers?

A police officer who witnesses another police officer use excessive force must report the use of force to the officer's immediate supervisor. This includes when a police officer is carrying out their law enforcement duties in:

  • Making an arrest
  • Placing a person under detention
  • Taking a person into custody
  • Booking any person
  • In the process of crowd control

A police officer has a duty, at a minimum, to report the time, date, place of the occurrence, identity of the victim, description of participants, description of the events and the force used. An officer is required to report the occurrence within 10 days of the use of excessive force.

5. What are the penalties for failing to report the use of force?

Failing to report the use of force by a police officer is a class 1 misdemeanor. Under CRS 18-8-802, a conviction for failing to report the excessive use of force is punishable by 6 to 18 months in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.

6. Related Offenses

Under CRS 18-8-803, police officers are to be subjected to the same criminal penalties if they use excessive force. This includes the related offense of assault. In Colorado, assault is charged in the first, second, or third degree, depending on the seriousness of the injury, weapons used, and the specific victim.

6.1, C.R.S. 18-3-202 First Degree Assault

Assault in the first degree involves intentionally causing serious bodily injury with a deadly weapon or disfiguring another seriously and permanently. First-degree assault also includes engaging in conduct which creates a grave risk of death to another, causing serious bodily injury.8 First-degree assault is a class 3 felony. The penalties for first-degree assault include up to 32 years in prison and a fine of up to $750,000.

6.2, C.R.S. 18-3-203 Second Degree Assault

Assault in the second degree involves intentionally causing serious bodily injury without a deadly weapon, or causing bodily injury to another.9 Second-degree assault is a class 4 felony. The penalties for second-degree assault include 2 to 6 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000.

6.3, C.R.S. 18-3-204 Third Degree Assault

Assault in the third degree involves knowingly or recklessly causing bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon, or with intent to harass or annoy, causing another to come in contact with bodily fluids or toxic substances.10 Third-degree assault is a class 1 misdemeanor. The penalties for third-degree assault include 6 to 24 months in jail and a fine of up to $500,000.

Call us for help...

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If you have been accused of using excessive force or failed to report another officer's use of excessive force, please contact us at Colorado Legal Defense Group. Our caring Colorado defense attorneys have many years of experience representing clients who have been charged with assault and other criminal offenses. We are among the best Colorado criminal defense attorneys to call. Contact us today for a free consultation by phone or in-person or in our Denver law office.


Legal References

  1. C.R.S. 18-8-803
  2. C.R.S. 18-1-707
  3. C.R.S. 18-1-707(2)
  4. C.R.S. 18-1-707(2.5)
  5. C.R.S. 18-3-103
  6. C.R.S. 18-3-104
  7. C.R.S. 18-8-802
  8. C.R.S. 18-3-202
  9. C.R.S. 18-3-203
  10. C.R.S. 18-3-204

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