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18-4-513 of the Colorado Revised Statutes makes it a crime to use an offensive-smelling substance or irritant to interfere with another person’s use of the land, building, or vehicle. The penalties for criminal use of a noxious substance include up to $100 in fines.
18-4-513 CRS states that “(1) Any person who deposits on the land or in the building or vehicle of another, without the other person’s consent, any stink bomb or device, irritant, or offensive-smelling substance with the intent to interfere with another’s use or enjoyment of the land, building, or vehicle commits a civil infraction. (2) It shall be an affirmative defense that a peace officer in the performance of his duties reasonably used a noxious substance.”
Unleashing a stink bomb in an office may violate CRS 18-4-513.
1. What is the criminal use of a noxious substance in Colorado?
Under Colorado law, the criminal use of a noxious substance involves “any person who deposits on the land or in the building or vehicle of another, without his consent, any stink bomb or device, irritant, or offensive-smelling substance with the intent to interfere with another’s use or enjoyment of the land, building, or vehicle.”1
2. What is a noxious substance?
A noxious substance may include a substance that puts off an offensive odor or causes a harmful or annoying reaction. Among the most common noxious substances in Colorado are stink bombs. Stink bombs can be purchased in novelty stores or online. Stink bombs are intended to create an offensive or unpleasant smell.
Prank stink bombs generally come in a small glass vial. When the glass vial is broken, the chemicals are released into the air, causing an offensive reaction. This may include a number of chemical compounds, which are generally harmless in small amounts. Chemical ingredients may include ammonium sulfide, which is reminiscent of the smell of rotten eggs. Other noxious stink bombs may be related to the chemical compounds found in skunk spray.
Law enforcement may also use stink bombs or other noxious substances as a form of riot control or crowd control. During a riot, the police may deploy stink bombs to disperse a crowd. Stink bombs can be very offensive without the more harmful effects of pepper spray or tear gas. Stink bombs for use as riot control may be much more potent and offensive than novelty stink bombs.
Police may use tear gas to clear out a riot without violating Colorado’s noxious substances law.
3. What are examples of the criminal use of a noxious substance?
Individuals may release a noxious substance, such as a stink bomb, as an intended prank or joke. For example, a college school student may throw a stink bomb during a class as a joke. Students playing a prank may not intend to commit a crime; however, using a stink bomb would likely interfere with other students’ use of the school auditorium, which could be charged as a criminal offense.
Others may use a noxious substance, including stink bombs or stink sprays, during a protest, or against protesters. Spraying a noxious substance on another person or using a stink bomb during a protest may be intended to interfere with the use or enjoyment of land, property, a building, or vehicle, which is a criminal offense.
Alternatively, law enforcement officers may utilize stink bombs or other noxious substances as a way to disperse a riot. It is an affirmative defense to the criminal use of a noxious substance when a peace officer in the performance of his duties reasonably used a noxious substance.2
4. What are the penalties for the criminal use of a noxious substance?
The criminal use of a noxious substance is civil infraction. The penalties are up to $100 in fines.3
However, a defendant may face additional charges if anyone is injured or harmed as a result of releasing a harmful noxious substance.
5. Related Offenses
5.1. Criminal Mischief C.R.S. 18-4-501
A person commits criminal mischief in Colorado when he or she knowingly damages the real or personal property of one or more other persons. The penalties for a criminal mischief conviction depend on the value of property damaged. It can be a petty offense, misdemeanor, or a felony.
5.2. Criminal Trespass C.R.S. 18-4-502
In Colorado, you commit criminal trespass when you unlawfully enter or remain on someone else’s property. Trespass can be in the first, second or third degree, with penalties depending on the type of property involved, and the reason for entering or remaining on the property.
5.3. Defacing Property C.R.S. 18-4-507
Destroying, defacing, removing, or damaging any historical monuments, public property, private property, or caves is a criminal offense in Colorado. Defacing property is usually a class 2 misdemeanor, which carries the maximum penalties of 120 days in jail and/or $750 in fines.
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If you have been accused of the criminal use of a noxious substance, please contact the Denver criminal lawyers at Colorado Legal Defense Group.
C.R.S. 18-4-513(1). Prior to March 1, 2022, criminal use of a noxious substance was a class 3 misdemeanor, carrying up to 6 months in jail and/or up to $750 in fines. SB21-271.