Getting arrested for DUI does not mean you will be convicted. Police misconduct, defective breathalyzers and crime lab mistakes may be enough to get your charges lessened or dismissed. Visit our page on Colorado DUI Laws to learn more.
When you raise an affirmative defense in a Colorado criminal case, you are claiming that your unlawful acts were justified under the circumstances. Because they were justified, you are not guilty of the charges alleged.
If you raise “credible evidence” of the affirmative defense, prosecutors then have the burden to disprove your affirmative defense beyond a reasonable doubt. If they cannot, then you should be acquitted of the charges.1
In this article, our Colorado criminal defense attorneys discuss the top five affirmative defenses:
Self-defense is a common defense to violent crime charges such as:
Colorado law permits you to fight back against an assailant as long as it is reasonable and proportional. You can even kill or seriously injure the assailant if you have reasonable grounds to believe you (or someone else) is in imminent danger of serious bodily injuries or death.
So when you claim “self-defense” in response to a violent crime allegation, you do not dispute that you physically touched or harmed someone else; instead, you are claiming that your otherwise unlawful actions were justified under the circumstances.2
Consent is a common defense to sex crime charges such as:
So when you claim “consent” in response to a sex crime charge, you do not dispute that the alleged sexual acts occurred; instead, you are claiming that the accuser in fact consented to the sex acts.
Insanity is a common defense to all types of criminal charges, from homicide to financial/real estate crimes. Colorado law considers you legally insane if – at the time of the offense – you were either:
So when you claim “insanity” in response to a criminal charge, you do not dispute you committed the alleged unlawful acts; instead, you are claiming that your mental state negates your ability to have a guilty mind.
Note that once you plead not guilty by reason of insanity, the trial court will order that you undergo a psychiatric examination to determine whether you may be allowed to proceed with that plea. If you are found not guilty by reason of insanity, you would be committed to a mental institution.4
Involuntary intoxication (such as when you are drugged without your knowledge) is a valid defense to all types of crimes, including DUI.
But voluntarily intoxication (where you knowingly ingested drugs or alcohol) is only a defense to “specific intent” crimes. Specific intent crimes are where prosecutors have the burden of proof to show that you intended to commit the criminal acts. Examples of specific intent crimes include:
Voluntary intoxication is not a defense to general intent crimes, which are crimes without a “criminal intent” element. Examples of general intent crimes include:
Either way, when you claim “intoxication” in response to a criminal charge, you do not dispute that you committed the unlawful acts; instead, you claim that your intoxicated state relieves you of any criminal liability.5
Learn more in our article, The difference between general and specific intent crimes in Colorado.
Entrapment is a common defense to such crimes as:
Police are permitted to go undercover (as prostitutes, “johns”, or drug buyers, for example) to set up unknowing suspects to break the law. However, legal trickery crosses the line into entrapment when police pressure people to commit crimes they were not predisposed to commit.
So when you claim “entrapment” in response to a criminal charge, you do not dispute that you committed the alleged unlawful acts; instead, you are claiming that you never would have committed the crime but for the police putting you under duress.6
Arrested in Colorado? Contact our Denver criminal defense lawyers to discuss your legal options. Our Denver Colorado criminal law firm appears in municipal and district courts throughout the state, including Arapahoe County, Loveland, Colorado Springs, and more.
See our related article on statutes of limitations in Colorado criminal cases.
Michael Becker has over a quarter-century's worth of experience as an attorney and more than 100 trials under his belt. He is a sought-after legal commentator and is licensed to practice law in Colorado, Nevada, California, and Florida.