Colorado Self Defense Laws

Self-defense is a legal defense to a criminal accusation or charge.

Successfully arguing self-defense helps you avoid being convicted of a crime.

To be successful, you need to prove:

  • You reasonably believed you were about to suffer imminent and unlawful harm;
  • You reasonably believed immediate force was required to protect yourself; and 
  • You used the degree of force that you reasonably believed would be necessary to prevent the harm.

The most common crimes that the self-defense argument is successful against are:

  • Second-degree murder,
  • First-degree assault,
  • Second-degree assault, and 
  • Domestic violence.

However, self-defense doesn’t apply to all situations. For example, you cannot successfully plead self-defense if you started or provoked the fight. You also cannot argue self-defense if you agreed to fight.

If you acted in self-defense and were accused or convicted of a crime, you should contact a criminal defense attorney in Colorado as soon as possible. Criminal defense lawyers can potentially reduce or eliminate criminal charges.

My name is Miller Leonard. I have handled thousands of criminal law cases as both a prosecutor and defense attorney. Contact me today to discuss the specifics of your case and potential defenses.

Amount of Force

When defending yourself, you may use only as much force as you reasonably believe is necessary to protect yourself. This is usually equal to the amount of force you are being threatened with.

For example, if someone punches you and you stab the attacker with a knife or shoot him with a gun, arguing self-defense will be difficult.

Deadly Force

You may use deadly force to defend yourself where you reasonably believe one of three things:

  1. You are in imminent danger of being seriously injured or killed;
  2. The aggressor is burglarizing your home and is about to use physical force against you; or
  3. The aggressor is kidnapping, robbing, sexually assaulting, or feloniously assaulting you.

Defending yourself from an intruder in your home is the most common situation where Colorado law permits the use of deadly force. CO’s “make my day” law allows homeowners and renters to use lethal force against a dangerous intruder even if there are other, less drastic, options available, such as retreat.

Reasonable Belief Explained

Successfully claiming self-defense depends on whether your belief about the imminence of the harm and the need for force was reasonable. A reasonable belief is an objective belief.

It does not matter whether you personally believed that you used the correct amount of force. Instead, it matters whether society as a whole would agree that you used the correct amount of force.

To establish self-defense, you must show that your beliefs about each of the following facts were reasonable:

  1. You were facing imminent harm;
  2. You had to use force to defend yourself; and
  3. The amount of force you used was necessary to prevent harm.

While your belief does not need to be certain, it must be objectively reasonable with respect to all three of these facts.

Defense of Property

Colorado law permits you to use reasonable and appropriate force when defending your property. You may use reasonable force to defend your property against crimes such as:

  • Unlawful trespassing,
  • Theft,
  • Criminal mischief, and
  • Criminal tampering.

However, you generally cannot use deadly force to defend your property unless the person has entered your home. Preventing someone from committing arson is the only time you can use deadly force when defending property in Colorado.

Begin Your Self-Defense Argument

An important part of successfully arguing self-defense is to convince the jury that they would have done the same thing you did if they were in your situation.

As managing attorney and founder of Miller Leonard, PC, I have become skilled at doing just that through my 20 plus years of criminal law experience.

If you have been accused of or charged with a crime in Colorado and acted in self-defense, it is necessary that you contact an experienced, competent, and tenacious criminal defense attorney. 

I will strive to provide you with the best possible legal representation when fighting your criminal accusation or charge. Contact me today to schedule a free consultation.


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