Colorado Self-Defense Laws

Created by FindLaw's team of attorney writers and editors.

Everyone has the right to protect themselves against injury or death. The state laws governing self-defense lay out the specific ways that you can use reasonable force for self-defense and the defense of others.

Some states have stand your ground laws which allow people to defend themselves against threats by using deadly force, even when retreating is possible. Colorado isn't a "stand your ground" state, but it is a "make my day" state.

"Make my Day Law" in Colorado

In 1985, Colorado become one of the first states in the country to enact legislation which grants the right of homeowners to shoot and kill intruders. If there's reason to believe that they're threatened with serious injury or death, the homeowner's action is lawful. The scope of the immunity is limited; the intruder must be inside the home or "dwelling"-meaning front porches and backyards don't count.

Summary of Colorado Self-Defense Laws

Working with an attorney is best way to learn about the meaning of any statute. However, it's practical to find out about the law by reading a concise, plain English summary of the statutes. See the chart below to become acquainted with Colorado's self-defense laws.

Statutes

Colorado Revised Statutes:

  • Section 18-1-704 (Use of physical force in defense of others)
  • Section 18-1-70.45 (Use of deadly force against intruders)
  • Section 18-1-705 (Use of physical force in defense of premises)

 

Justified Use of Force

 

Justified use of physical force must include:

  • A reasonable belief that a person is using or will use unlawful physical force against them.
  • Only the use of a degree of force that is necessary for self-defense or the defense of another person.

Deadly physical force is permissible only if a person reasonably believes lesser degrees of force are inadequate and:

  • The actor has reasonable ground to believe, and does believe, that they or another person is in imminent danger of death or receiving great bodily injury; or
  • The other person is using or reasonably appears to be about to use physical force against an occupant of a dwelling or business while committing or attempting to commit burglary; or
  • The other person is committing or reasonably appears to be about to commit kidnapping, robbery, or sexual assault.

Unlawful Use of Physical Force

Prohibited uses of physical force:

  • The actor provokes the use of unlawful physical force against another person; or
  • The actor is the initial aggressor. Exception: Physical force is justifiable if the actor withdraws from the encounter and effectively communicates that intention to the other person, but the other person continues using physical force;
  • The physical force involved is the product of mutual combat, not specifically authorized by law.

Defense of Property

A person in possession or control of any building or other premises is justified in using reasonable force in the following conditions:

Physical force:

Reasonable force may be used when and to the extent that it's reasonably necessary to prevent or terminate an unlawful trespass.

Deadly force:

Deadly force is allowed in defense of property where there is a reasonable belief that it's necessary to prevent an attempt by the trespasser to commit first-degree arson.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Colorado Self-Defense Laws: Related Resources

Discuss Self-Defense Laws with a Colorado Criminal Attorney

Colorado's self-defense laws can be used to justify actions that would normally constitute crimes. If you need clarification about Colorado's "make my day law" or if you were involved in an altercation or incident where this defense can help your case, you should talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney in your area.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

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