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Is Colorado a "stand your ground" state?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Jan 14, 2019 | 0 Comments

Yes, but only with regard to dwellings and to the extent reasonably necessary to defend oneself or others.

Colorado self-defense law allows people to employ physical force to defend themselves or others when either:

  • The victim reasonably believes someone is using, or is about to use, illegal physical force against him/her or another, or
  • Someone has illegally entered the victim's home, and the victim reasonably believes that the intruder has committed -- or is about to commit -- an offense and may use physical force (no matter how little) on any occupant.

Self-defense and defense of others in Colorado (Colorado Revised Statute 18-1-704 C.R.S.)

Colorado law permits people to utilize force which they reasonably believe is required to protect themselves or others from an offense involving the implementation of physical force. Note that reacting with deadly physical force is legally justified only in the following three situations:

  1. The victim reasonably believes non-deadly force is inadequate, and the victim has reasonable grounds to believe -- and does believe -- that he/she or another victim is in imminent danger of dying or being seriously injured; or
  2. The victim reasonably believes non-deadly force is inadequate, and the aggressor is using -- or reasonably appears about to be using -- physical force while carrying out -- or trying to carry out -- a burglary crime in Colorado; or
  3. The victim reasonably believes non-deadly force is inadequate, and the aggressor is carrying out -- or reasonably appears about to be carrying out -- a kidnapping, robbery, or sexual assault.

Note that physical force is not legally justified in either of the following three situations:

  1. A person provokes the other person to use unlawful physical force and with the intent to bring about physical injury or death to another person; or
  2. A person is the initial aggressor (however, initial aggressors can legally use physical force if they with withdraw from the fight, convey their intent to withdraw, but the other person persists in using -- or threatening to use -- illegal physical force); or
  3. Any physical force is from an unauthorized "combat by agreement", such as a rumble or gang fight

Make My Day law -- Colorado's castle doctrine (Colorado Revised Statute 18-1-704.5 C.R.S.)

Colorado law permits people to implement physical force -- including causing death -- on an intruder if all of the following circumstances are true:

  1. The intruder breaks into the person's home (which could also include a hotel room), and
  2. The victim has reasonable grounds to believe that the intruder has committed an offense in the dwelling (aside from the intrusion), or that the intruder has committed -- or intends to commit -- an offense against a person or property (aside from the intrusion); and
  3. The victim reasonably believes that the intruder may use physical force (even if very little) against an occupant

As long as these three conditions are met, the victim is protected from both criminal and civil liability. Therefore, there is no express "duty to retreat" under Colorado law before a victim may implement deadly force for self-defense or defense of others in his/her dwelling. It does not matter even if the victim could escape the situation without causing anyone harm.

Deadly force to prevent trespassing (Colorado Revised Statute 18-1-706 C.R.S.)

A person may use appropriate physical force reasonably necessary to prevent or stop what reasonably seems to be either:

  • A trespass, or
  • An attempted theft, criminal mischief, or criminal tampering involving property

If the property is not a dwelling, the person may use deadly force only if:

  • the person is acting in self-defense or defense of others (see above), or 
  • the person reasonably believes deadly force is required to prevent what he/she reasonably believes is an attempted first degree arson.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

Southern California DUI Defense attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT).

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