Stand Your Ground Law: Colorado

Contrary to what is sometimes reported, Colorado does not have a true stand-your-ground law.

What stand-your-ground provisions they have in the law is really a sort of halfway version of Castle Doctrine, where defenders have a right to defend themselves against someone who has illegally entered their home, but only so long as another crime has been committed or the use of force against the occupants is imminent.

flag of Colorado

Suffice to say that Colorado is not the state that it once was, and the overall softening and eventual turn of the state’s attitudes towards self-defense, gun ownership and the people who believe in both is definitely a weather vane with regards to what is to come in this formerly red frontier state.

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about Colorado’s decided lack of a stand-your-ground law.

What You Need to Know

  • Colorado does permit citizens to use force, including deadly force, in defense of themselves or others so long as the use of force is proportional to the illegal force being used against them.
  • In Colorado, the defender must reasonably believe that themselves or someone else is about to be seriously injured or killed and non deadly force would be inadequate for the task of stopping the use of unlawful force.
  • Certain forcible felonies also rate the use of force, including deadly force in defense, specifically kidnapping, robbery or sexual assaults.
  • Note that, in Colorado, someone who has illegally entered a home or dwelling, even an occupied one, may not necessarily be engaged at once with lethal force unless the defenders believe they are about to use any amount of force against the occupants or the person who illegally entered has committed some other crime inside the dwelling.

General Provisions

Colorado’s self defense laws and nearly complete lack of any stand-your-ground or “stand-your-ground like” provision leaves a lot to be desired.

First things first, the only law that in essence allows a defender to stand their ground without fear of spurious prosecution is in regards to defending one’s home or other domicile after someone has illegally, forcibly entered the home and is about to inflict injury or commit an offense while in the home.

Note that in stark contrast to some other states, there is no presumption of fear of death or great bodily injury on behalf of the defender just because someone has illegally entered the domicile.

What else? Colorado section 18-1-704 only allows a citizen to utilize force and self-defense when it is reasonably believed, by the would-be victim, that force is required to protect themselves or someone else from a criminal act that would see unlawful physical force inflicted upon them or another.

Specifically, deadly physical force and defense is only legally justifiable in a couple situations.

First, the would-be victim believes that non deadly force is inadequate to the task of stopping the aggressor and they have a reasonable belief that themselves or someone else is in danger of death or great bodily injury.

Second, the defender believes reasonably that the aggressor is committing or about to commit one of a few forcible felonies, namely kidnapping, robbery or rape / sexual assault.

Restrictions

Colorado law specifically makes mention that physical force of any kind in defense is not justified or excusable in certain circumstances. First, any parties that have entered a combat by agreement voluntarily may never claim lawful self-defense in response to such activities.

Second, anyone who is the initial aggressor in a confrontation may never claim self defense unless they have withdrawn and disengaged or are making a good faith effort to withdraw or disengage before their opposite number continues using force against them. This is dodgy, so don’t count on it.

Lastly, any person who by action provokes another person to use unlawful physical force against them with the ultimate goal of inflicting injury or death on that person may not claim self-defense.

Assessment

Colorado’s self defense laws are in a pretty sad state of affairs. Though nominally on the side of citizens who are forced to defend themselves against criminal attacks and the threat of death, the distinct lack of a legitimate stand your ground provision and somewhat flimsily worded statutes concerning where, when an under what conditions force, including lethal force is authorized in defense does not inspire any confidence.

Relevant Colorado Use of Force Statutes

18-1-501. Definitions.

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 inaddition 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.

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