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Use of Deadly Force in Colorado


This portion of our web site is to provide a general overview of some of the most important gun laws that exist in our country and in the State of Colorado.



If you reside in Nevada or intend to apply for the Colorado Carry and Concealed Weapons License, Level 1 Firearms Safety and Training has a class dedicated to the legalities of gun ownership which meets the state of Colorado requirements. Please contact us if you are interested in attending this class.

If you own a firearm there's always the chance it could be used for self-defense. If you have incorporated the use of a firearm in your personal defense strategy, the chances increase dramatically because, in theory, your firearm is within easy reach or on your person at all times. If you are forced to pull your weapon, it must be done so under certain conditions:

Justifiable homicide is the killing of a human being in necessary self-defense.

The statutes then applies certain limitations:

In defense of an occupied habitation, an occupied motor vehicle or a person.

This then extends to the conditions:

Against one who manifestly intends or endeavors to commit a crime of violence or who intends to carry out in a violent, riotous, tumultuous or surreptitious manner, to enter the occupied habitation or occupied motor vehicle for the purpose of assaulting or offering personal violence.

Colorado Castle Doctrine

The concept of a "Castle Doctrine" essentially states as long as you are in your home you have certain expectations that you will be safe. Some states specifically create a "Castle Doctrine" to provide a legal answer as to what you can and cannot do in defense of your home. The Colorado Castle Doctrine is not specifically called "Colorado Castle Doctrine" per se, but the parameters of a Castle Doctrine defense are present under permissible circumstances:
A person is not required to retreat.
It then continues with some stipulations:
The person defending them self must be the original aggressor
Has a legal right to be where the defense took place
Was not involved with a criminal act

No Duty to Retreat
In some states you are required to retreat away from the threat rather than to engage the threat. That does not mean you cannot defend yourself, it just means if there was a way to retreat and you didn't, it could cause you a great deal of trouble. Given that, the retreat must have been available. If you were backed up to the edge of a cliff, there would be no reasonable duty to retreat because retreating would cause you greater harm than defending yourself. Some states have specifically created "Duty to Retreat" that define when you must retreat; Nevada does not have a specific law addressing when conditions are required for you to retreat. The statute explicitly states you have no duty to retreat under any circumstances. If you choose not to retreat, you'll need to convince a jury why you did so when you may have had an opportunity to avoid using your firearm.
Colorado Stand Your Ground Law
"Stand Your Ground" laws essentially build on top of the "Castle Doctrine" and "No Duty to Retreat" laws; they are essentially extending your right of self defense beyond your home. If you have a reasonable fear of loss of life or limb you can protect yourself anytime, anywhere, you have the legal right to be present while out in public. Nevada does not have a "Stand Your Ground" law either, however, the framework is present for essentially the same kind of defense.

Colorado "Make my Day" Law

The Colorado "Make my Day" states that anyone who has entered your home can essentially be "shot on site" if there is any, any perceived threat of harm of any level; we do not recommend that you do so!

Additional Colorado Self-Defense Concepts

The "Reasonable Man" Standard

The "reasonable man" standard is always applied during a shooting investigation, by an attorney, a judge, and a jury. The standard is unavoidable because it's the same standard you use when watching a trial on the television: Would I have behaved in that way?

The theory behind the "reasonable man" standard is questioning whether the average person would have done what you did under the same set of circumstances. For example, an intruder in your home who is armed with a knife 20 feet away from you continues towards you after repeated warnings you will shoot to protect yourself. This is a situation that we believe most reasonable people would shoot to protect themselves. On the other hand, shooting an unarmed person 50 feet away who is shouting profanities or playing load music is hardly a reason to fire your weapon claiming it was done in self-defense.

Use of "Reasonable Force"

Reasonable force is the use of equal force against equal force. In other words, you can't use a gun to defend yourself simply because someone hit you in your face. A 6' 3" 220 lbs professional athlete would have a difficult time explaining the use of deadly force against a 5' 2" 85 year 100 lbs grandmother. On the other hand, if the grandmother had a steel rod or knife, the circumstances have changed. In essence, absent the presence or the ability of the attacker to cause great bodily harm or death, the use of a firearm is generally prohibited and considered excessive force.

Ability of the Attacker

An attacker is only considered a threat to life or limb if they are actually capable of carrying out the threat. The unarmed grandmother threatening to "kill" the professional athlete is not a threat that can be taken seriously by the athlete using the "reasonable man" standard.

Immediate Threat Must Exist

You cannot use deadly force when an immediate, imminent threat is not present. For example, if someone say's "Someday I'm going to kill you!" and has no means of doing so at that time, use of deadly force would not be justified.

You Must be the Victim of the Attack

You cannot start or incite another person into a fight and then use deadly force. To be able to use deadly force, you must be the victim of an attack--totally innocent of escalating the situation to such a level. An example might be you offended someone and they start yelling at you. You should respond in a calm manner, apologize (even if you are right), and try to get yourself away from that person as quickly as possible. If the person starts to escalate the situation, such as poking you in the chest or pushing you around, the situation is escalating because of them; not you.
Brandishing a Weapon

Brandishing laws exist in many states. Brandishing a weapon is the act of waving your firearm in a threatening, aggressive, or unsafe manner. Brandishing occurs when you present your firearm as a means of a threat or for the purpose of scaring or bullying someone into doing something or believing their life is in danger. For example, a trespasser who refuses to leave your yard, presents no physical danger, is a problem for the police to handle. If you pull your firearm out of your holster and waive it about or hold it in a manner that is unsafe and excessive for the situation, you are brandishing a weapon.

If you are following the rules for protecting yourself from an immediate attack or life-threatening situation, and are forced to present your firearm as a last line of defense, you are not brandishing your weapon. In fact, at that point, you have every intention of using it if the threat does not go away. If the attacker suddenly runs away, the threat is over and the firearm should be immediately holstered.

Protection of Others

Many states have laws which allow citizens to use deadly force when a commission of a crime is occurring against another fellow citizen. This can get extremely tricky. Suppose you come across a scene where one person has a knife and they're about to stab the other person. There are so many things that can go wrong in these situations. For example, the person doing the stabbing, is he the attacker or the victim who took the knife from the attacker? Is he responding in self-defense or is he the bad guy ready to commit murder? If it's the victim defending them self and you yell to stop, what happens if the attacker gets control of the knife and kills the victim?

Other situations may be more obvious. A gunman who is randomly shooting into a crowd of people, or a woman who is clearly being raped, or a kidnapping is occurring--these situations are best left for the police to handle, however, you may not have the time to call the police. Essentially, although it is not you who is being threatened with great bodily harm or death, you have the right to come to the assistance of another person who is under this threat, and, to use deadly force if the victim is clearly going to lose their life.

Remember, all this relies on the correct set of circumstances. If you are approaching a gas station and you see an armed robbery in process, you should not do anything to escalate the situation, instead, you should call the police and become a good witness. On the other hand, if the robber starts shooting customers for no apparent reason, it becomes complicated. Do you stand by and watch while you wait for the police to arrive? Do you try to intervene and remove the threat yourself? What happens if the police arrive and think you're the threat?

Be very careful in these situations and whenever possible, call the police and be a good witness for them.

The Absence of Threat

hen a threat no longer exists, such as if they ran off, surrendered, or are no longer able to cause immediate harm or loss of life, you must stop the use of lethal force. That does not mean you have to holster your firearm! It means you must be very careful of what you do next.

If the person fled, do not chase after them. Be a good witness, remember what they are wearing, tattoos, birth marks, scars, and if you were lucky enough, their license plate.

If the person surrendered, have them drop to the ground, face down, with their arms and legs spread as wide as possible apart. Stand to their side at a safe distance opposite their face so they cannot see you and instruct them to remain quiet while the police arrive. Do not attempt to tie them up, use handcuffs, or tie downs to restrain them--keep a safe but manageable distance. If possible, try to have a witness call the police and describe who you are, what you are wearing, and that you have the suspect on the ground and are holding them at gunpoint. It's not an ideal situation, but at least the police have somewhat of an explanation of whose who before they arrive. Be sure to follow the police instructions carefully when they arrive. Move slowly, deliberately, and keep your hands in plain view at all times. The officers will have one goal in mind when they arrive--which will be to disarm you immediately.

If the attacker has been shot or killed, you will want to be safe and follow the same routine as if the suspect had surrendered. In other words, keep your firearm on the suspect, notify the police if possible, and follow instructions once they arrive.

If the shooting occurred in your home, and you are confident the threat no longer exists, gather your family together, go out to the front yard, and wait for the police to arrive. When the police arrive, be sure everyone have their hands in plain view as the officers will want to know they are safe to approach. Do not have your firearm on your person! Either take it with you to the front yard, place it on the ground and move away from it, or place it in the home safe before you exit the house. If you are holding an injured suspect at gunpoint, have your family exit the home as before and tell the arriving officers the suspect is wounded and being held at gunpoint. As always, follow the officer's instructions once they have arrived and remember their goal will be to disarm you immediately.
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