Police Misconduct Laws in Colorado
Many Colorado residents believe a police officer's job is to keep everyone safe, and that police will treat them fairly until they can "have their day in court." Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
Colorado's police misconduct laws are clear but finding the line between what is necessary for the officer's safety and what is illegal can be complicated. Police misconduct can involve any actions by staff and employees of the Colorado police force that are unethical, illegal, or in violation of your rights under the U.S. Constitution. However, law enforcement officers have some "qualified immunity" that protects them from civil lawsuits as long as they do not invade the victim's rights. Knowing your rights is the first step to knowing when misconduct occurs.
Colorado Police Misconduct Law Overview
The table below reviews the Colorado and Federal laws involving police interactions and arrests.
Colorado's police misconduct laws are in Colorado's Revised Statutes, Title 18 (Criminal Code). The relevant sections are:
|Your Rights During Police Interactions||
You have individual rights that protect you from police wrongdoing. During an interaction with a police officer in Colorado, you have the right to:
Colorado is one of the states that have "stop and identify" laws. If you refuse to identify yourself when asked, according to the law (Colorado's Revised Statutes, Title 16 (Criminal Proceedings) Section 16-3-103), you may be seen as obstructing an officer in their duties under Section 18-8-104(1). It is illegal to give a false identification when asked.
|When Can You Be Legally Arrested?||
Colorado only considers an arrest to be legal if the following criteria apply:
|Initiating a Civil Rights Claim Against a Colorado Police Officer||
The federal government will always investigate a police misconduct crime through the Department of Justice (DOJ). To bring a police misconduct claim against the police branch or an individual, your attorney will need to prove:
A civil rights attorney can review your case and instruct you on the next steps. Anyone can file a complaint against an officer of the peace through their local county prosecuting attorney or send a letter to the Denver FBI office:
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.
Limitations on Police Power: What Law Enforcement Can and Can't Do
Police misconduct is a national issue that causes significant problems, as not following these laws can result in wrongful convictions, wrongful imprisonment, and lawsuits for the state or officers. Because of this, official misconduct is taken very seriously by the courts. The most common types of police misconduct claims involve:
- Illegal arrest with little to no proof (false arrest) or based on an unlawful search and seizure
- Unlawful containment in jail or prison (false imprisonment)
- Intimidating or scaring a person by filing charges (malicious prosecution)
- Using excessive violence or force during suspect pursuit or arrest
- Fraudulent, dishonest, or coercive statements and any illegal activities to force a confession
- Violence, torture, brutality or wrongful death at the hand of an officer
- Using their authority in an abusive manner, such as demanding sexual actions
- Offering leniency in exchange for a confession or sexual activity
Learn More About Colorado Law
Related Resources for Police Misconduct:
- Colorado Civil Rights Laws
- 3 Tips for Evaluating Police Misconduct Cases
- Police Misconduct and Civil Rights
- Have Your Civil Rights Been Violated?
Find a Civil Rights Attorney for Help Filing a Police Misconduct Claim
If you believe a Colorado police officer violated your rights or safety, you can bring a claim against them and/or their government branch. These cases are complex and often need professional legal help. Find a local attorney focused on police misconduct law to learn more.
Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney
Contact a qualified attorney.