Colorado citizens do not benefit from the excellent self-defense laws of other states, particularly when it comes to standing your ground provisions, but mercifully Colorado has a clear and unambiguous version of castle doctrine law.
Though it is not as formidable as similar laws found in other, freer states, it is definitely serviceable.
Colorado state law affirmatively states that all citizens have a right to expect absolute safety within the confines of their homes, and this includes any requirement of self-defense against Intruders.
There is plenty to learn about Colorado’s castle doctrine law, so keep reading to get the full story and make sure to catch the included State statutes at the end.
- The State of Colorado allows citizens to utilize deadly force in defense of their homes should Intruders enter unlawfully.
- However, unlawful entry into a dwelling alone is not sufficient by to permit the use of deadly force in self-defense without other aggravating factors.
- Any defenders protecting their homes and other occupants in the home from intruders must have a reasonable belief that the intruder is committing or about to commit some other crime while in the home or is prepared to use force against any occupant, however slight the force might be.
Overview of Castle Doctrine Law in Colorado
The good news, or rather the best news, about Colorado’s castle doctrine law which is found in 18-1-704.5, is that it states upfront and clearly the general assembly recognizes that all citizens have an expectation of absolute safety within their own homes.
That’s good, as some states don’t even say half as much in their laws.
But more practically, the provisions of the statute state that any occupant of a dwelling is justified and using force, including deadly force against an intruder when the intruder has unlawfully entered the dwelling.
This applies so long as the defender has a reasonable belief that the intruder has already committed a crime in the dwelling or is intending to commit a crime against a person or property.
However, the defender must also believe reasonably that the intruder might use physical force, however slight that force might be, against themselves or any other occupant in the dwelling.
Only when all of those prerequisites are met does the state find the defender immune from any criminal or civil prosecution for the use of force in self-defense, even inside the home.
Now, compared to states that have clearly delineated standards for self-defense inside the home, particularly concerning the unlawful and forcible entry of an intruder, Colorado’s castle doctrine law is somewhat lacking, but it is definitely functional.
Put another way, a defender must still be under a reasonable belief that the intruder, however they got into the home, is intending or likely to harm themselves or another occupant of the home before using force in defense.
This is the same standard that one would expect in any other self-defense encounter outside of the home or in a public space. The letter of the law is strongly biased toward the defender at any rate.
As you might expect, deadly force may never be used strictly in the protection of personal property of any kind inside or outside the home.
You cannot use deadly force against someone because they are stealing your patio furniture or you emerge from your bedroom after hearing a crash to see them running down the road with your TV or other valuables.
To be perfectly clear, deadly force may never be used in defense of the premises or other property alone, with only one exception.
Any person who is in possession or control of any structure, real property, or other premises may only use deadly force to stop a trespasser or other intruder who does not meet the requirements of the above section if they believe it is necessary to prevent the commission of first-degree arson.
Though Colorado state law is a bit lacking in matters of self-defense, the state at least supports citizens with a fairly robust version of castle doctrine, though the typical standards for the use of deadly force in self-defense still remain in a limited context while inside a dwelling.
So long as defenders are confronting an intruder who has entered unlawfully, is committing or preparing to commit a crime in addition to the unlawful entry and the defender has a reasonable belief that the intruder may use any amount of force against an occupant, deadly force is justified in self-defense.
Relevant Colorado Castle Doctrine Statutes
The following definitions are applicable to the determination of culpability requirements for offenses defined in this code:
(1) “Act” means a bodily movement, and includes words and possession of property.
(2) “Conduct” means an act or omission and its accompanying state of mind or, where relevant, a series of acts or omissions.
(3) “Criminal negligence”. A person acts with criminal negligence when, through a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would exercise, he fails to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk that a result will occur or that a circumstance exists.
(4) “Culpable mental state” means intentionally, or with intent, or knowingly, or willfully, or recklessly, or with criminal negligence, as these terms are defined in this section.
(5) “Intentionally” or “with intent”. All offenses defined in this code in which the mental culpability requirement is expressed as “intentionally” or “with intent” are declared to be specific intent offenses. A person acts “intentionally” or “with intent” when his conscious objective is to cause the specific result proscribed by the statute defining the offense. It is immaterial to the issue of specific intent whether or not the result actually occurred.
(6) “Knowingly” or “willfully”. All offenses defined in this code in which the mental culpability requirement is expressed as “knowingly” or “willfully” are declared to be general intent crimes. A person acts “knowingly” or “willfully” with respect to conduct or to a circumstance described by a statute defining an offense when he is aware that his conduct is of such nature or that such circumstance exists. A person acts “knowingly” or “willfully”, with respect to a result of his conduct, when he is aware that his conduct is practically certain to cause the result.
(7) “Omission” means a failure to perform an act as to which a duty of performance is imposed by law.
(8) “Recklessly”. A person acts recklessly when he consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that a result will occur or that a circumstance exists.
(9) “Voluntary act” means an act performed consciously as a result of effort or determination, and includes the possession of property if the actor was aware of his physical possession or control thereof for a sufficient period to have been able to terminate it.
18-1-704. Use of physical force in defense of a person.
(1) Except as provided in subsections (2) and (3) of this section, a person is justified in using physical force upon another person in order to defend himself or a third person from what he reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of unlawful physical force by that other person, and he may use a degree of force which he reasonably believes to be necessary for that purpose.
(2) Deadly physical force may be used only if a person reasonably believes a lesser degree of force is inadequate and:
(a) The actor has reasonable ground to believe, and does believe, that he or another person is in imminent danger of being killed or of receiving great bodily injury; or (b) The other person is using or reasonably appears about to use physical force against an occupant of a dwelling or business establishment while committing or attempting to commit burglary as defined in sections 18-4-202 to 18-4-204; or
(c) The other person is committing or reasonably appears about to commit kidnapping as defined in section 18-3-301 or 18-3-302, robbery as defined in section 18-4-301 or 18-4-302, sexual assault as set forth in section 18-3-402, or in section 18-3-403 as it existed prior to July 1, 2000, or assault as defined in sections 18-3-202 and 18-3-203.
(3) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (1) of this section, a person is not justified in using physical force if:
(a) With intent to cause bodily injury or death to another person, he provokes the use of unlawful physical force by that other person; or
(b) He is the initial aggressor; except that his use of physical force upon another person under the circumstances is justifiable if he withdraws from the encounter and effectively communicates to the other person his intent to do so, but the latter nevertheless continues or threatens the use of unlawful physical force; or
(c) The physical force involved is the product of a combat by agreement not specifically authorized by law.
(4) In a case in which the defendant is not entitled to a jury instruction regarding selfdefense as an affirmative defense, the court shall allow the defendant to present evidence, when relevant, that he or she was acting in self-defense. If the defendant presents evidence of selfdefense, the court shall instruct the jury with a self-defense law instruction. The court shall instruct the jury that it may consider the evidence of self-defense in determining whether the defendant acted recklessly, with extreme indifference, or in a criminally negligent manner.
However, the self-defense law instruction shall not be an affirmative defense instruction and the prosecuting attorney shall not have the burden of disproving self-defense. This section shall not apply to strict liability crimes.
18-1-704.5. Use of deadly physical force against an intruder.
(1) The general assembly hereby recognizes that the citizens of Colorado have a right to expect absolute safety within their own homes.
(2) Notwithstanding the provisions of section 18-1-704, any occupant of a dwelling is
justified in using any degree of physical force, including deadly physical force, against another person when that other person has made an unlawful entry into the dwelling, and when the occupant has a reasonable belief that such other person has committed a crime in the dwelling in addition to the uninvited entry, or is committing or intends to commit a crime against a person or property in addition to the uninvited entry, and when the occupant reasonably believes that such other person might use any physical force, no matter how slight, against any occupant.
(3) Any occupant of a dwelling using physical force, including deadly physical force, in accordance with the provisions of subsection (2) of this section shall be immune from criminal prosecution for the use of such force.
(4) Any occupant of a dwelling using physical force, including deadly physical force, in accordance with the provisions of subsection (2) of this section shall be immune from any civil liability for injuries or death resulting from the use of such force.
(5) As used in this section, unless the context otherwise requires, “dwelling” does not include any place of habitation in a detention facility, as defined in section 18-8-211 (4).
18-1-705. Use of physical force in defense of premises.
A person in possession or control of any building, realty, or other premises, or a person who is licensed or privileged to be thereon, is justified in using reasonable and appropriate physical force upon another person when and to the extent that it is reasonably necessary to prevent or terminate what he reasonably believes to be the commission or attempted commission of an unlawful trespass by the other person in or upon the building, realty, or premises.
However, he may use deadly force only in defense of himself or another as described in section 18-1-704, or when he reasonably believes it necessary to prevent what he reasonably believes to be an attempt by the trespasser to commit first degree arson.
18-1-706. Use of physical force in defense of property.
A person is justified in using reasonable and appropriate physical force upon another person when and to the extent that he reasonably believes it necessary to prevent what he reasonably believes to be an attempt by the other person to commit theft, criminal mischief, or criminal tampering involving property, but he may use deadly physical force under these circumstances only in defense of himself or another as described in section 18-1-704.
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.