CRS 18-9-103 is the Colorado statute that defines the crime of arming rioters. This section makes it illegal to provide weapons for use in a riot, or to teach someone how to make a weapon or a bomb to use in a riot. Arming rioters is a felony in Colorado that carries a sentence of up to 6 years in state prison.
CRS 18-9-103 states that:
(1) A person commits arming rioters if he:
(a) Knowingly supplies a deadly weapon or destructive device for use in a riot; or
(b) Teaches another to prepare or use a deadly weapon or destructive device with intent that any such thing be used in a riot.
Examples of arming rioters include these situations:
- Dave’s friends want him to go to the protest. He has work, though, and cannot make it. He gives them his brass knuckles and his pistol, winks, and tells them to “be safe.”
- Amy finds an internet message board for people who are angry with the Colorado governor. She posts directions for making a Molotov Cocktail.
People who have been accused of arming rioters can raise several legal defenses. Some of the most common include:
- Lack of intent,
- Lack of knowledge, and
Raising a legal defense is crucial because the penalties of a conviction for arming rioters are severe:
- Between two and six years in jail,
- Between $2,000 and $500,000 in fines, and
- Mandatory parole of three years.
In this article, our Colorado criminal defense attorneys will explain:
- 1. What is arming rioters under CRS 18-9-103?
- 2. Common legal defenses to a charge of arming rioters in Colorado
- 3. What are the penalties for a conviction under CRS 18-9-103?
- 4. Offenses that are related to arming rioters
1. What is arming rioters under CRS 18-9-103?
In Colorado, CRS 18-9-103 describes the crime of arming rioters. The statute outlaws two things:
- Knowingly giving someone a deadly weapon or destructive device to use in a riot, and
- Teaching someone how to make or use a deadly weapon or destructive device in a riot.
1.1. Knowingly arming rioters
CRS 18-9-103 forbids knowingly arming a rioter.
Doing something “knowingly” has a very specific legal meaning. It means acting in a way that is “practically certain” to cause a certain result.1 Doing something “knowingly” means that you did not intend for the result to happen. However, it means that the result was almost guaranteed.
Knowingly arming a rioter does not require you to intentionally give a rioter a weapon. A conviction for CRS 18-9-103 can happen if you do something that practically guarantees they get one.
Example: Nancy finds the planned route for a protest march. She hides a loaded gun in a bus stop on the route.
1.2. What is a deadly weapon?
CRS 18-9-103 makes it illegal to give a rioter a deadly weapon. It also makes it illegal to show them how to make a deadly weapon.
A deadly weapon is anything that can kill someone or seriously hurt them.
Examples of deadly weapons include:
- Knives, and
- Bludgeons, like a baseball bat.2
2. Common legal defenses to a charge of arming rioters in Colorado
There are three common legal defenses to a charge of arming rioters. These are:
- You did not intend to teach a rioter,
- You did not know they were rioters, and
- Police entrapped you.
2.1. You did not intend to teach a rioter about a deadly or destructive weapon
CRS 18-9-103(1)(b) makes it a crime to show how to use a deadly or destructive device in a riot. This section of the law is important because it requires intentional conduct. The prosecutor has to show that you intended for your lessons to be used during a riot. The prosecutor has to prove this beyond a reasonable doubt. Showing that you did not have this intention can be a strong defense.
2.2. You did not know they were rioters
CRS 18-9-103(1)(a) makes it a crime to knowingly provide a deadly weapon or device for use in a riot. If you provided equipment to make a bomb but did not know they were rioters, that can be a strong defense argument. It could prevent the prosecutor from proving that you acted knowingly.
Example: Meredith manages an Italian restaurant. Several young men ask her for empty wine bottles. They say they are going to use them for an art project. She gives them the empty bottles. They use the bottles for Molotov Cocktails to burn down a building and protest gentrification in Denver. Meredith can argue that she did not knowingly provide a destructive device for the rioters.
Police cannot coerce or induce someone into committing a crime they would not have committed, otherwise. If you are charged with arming rioters because a police officer tricked you into doing it, a possible defense is that you were entrapped.
3. What are the penalties for a conviction under CRS 18-9-103?
Arming rioters under CRS 18-9-103 is a Class 4 felony. The penalties for a conviction for a Class 4 felony are harsh. They include:
- Between two and six years in prison,
- Fines of between $2,000 and $500,000, and
- Three years of mandatory parole.
Additionally, having a felony conviction on your criminal history can make life difficult. It can be harder to get a job. It can also impact your voting rights and the right to bear arms.
4. Offenses that are related to arming rioters
Charges for arming rioters under CRS 18-9-103 can also come with other charges, as well. Arming rioters can set in motion a series of events that leads to other offenses. Some of these include:
- Disrupting a lawful assembly (CRS 18-9-108). This law forbids taking action to prevent other people from lawfully meeting.
- Engaging in a riot (CRS 18-9-104). This statute makes it illegal to make a dangerous public disturbance with at least three other people. The penalties rise if a deadly weapon was used during the riot.
- Accessory to a crime (CRS 18-8-105). This law makes it illegal to help someone else commit a crime. By arming a rioter, you could face charges for being an accessory to any crime the rioter causes.
- Criminal conspiracy (CRS 18-2-201). This law makes it illegal to agree to commit a crime, and then take one step towards committing it. Giving a rioter weapon can be that step. If there was an understanding that the rioter would commit a crime with the weapon or bomb, you can face conspiracy charges.
- C.R.S. § 18-1-501(6).
- C.R.S. § 18-1-901(3)(e).