Finding yourself in a situation where your safety becomes threatened can be very stressful. It is hard to know how to react and how to defend yourself in a legal manner. In a situation like this, there is a thin line between what’s considered assault and what is self-defense. It is important that you’re able to distinguish this, as an assault charge can result in a prison sentence. To make this distinction, you must understand the actions that are legal grounds for self-defense. If the encounter doesn’t meet that criteria, it may result in a criminal charge. In this post, the legal team at WeedenLaw will explain in further detail the difference between assault and self-defense. We will also answer questions including “What is the Make My Day law?” and “Can you go to jail for self-defense?”
Is Colorado a stand your ground state?
Colorado follows a “Stand Your Ground” law statewide. This means in situations of self-defense, you are able to defend yourself without retreating from an altercation. This law grants people the ability to use appropriate force in the name of self-defense. Sometimes, this law even covers the need to use deadly force.
There are various circumstances where you might need to stand your ground. One case might be if you are trespassing on another’s property. Though you are breaking the law, this doesn’t grant someone else the right to use unlawful force against you. If an individual uses unreasonable and unlawful force against you in this scenario, you may be able to use self-defense. However, property owners still have the right to use force against a trespasser, so self-defense is not always a valid claim. The line gets drawn when a property owner uses an inappropriate amount of force, like deadly force, in a context where it is not necessary.
Here is another example of the Stand Your Ground law. Say someone is trying to hit you with their car. Instead of retreating or running away, you have the right to defend yourself in this scenario. So if you were to pull out a gun and shoot the driver to save yourself, you would be safe from penalty under this law.
Make My Day Law
The “Make My Day” law is different from the Stand Your Ground law. The Make My Day law pertains to self-defense rights in your home. The Stand Your Ground law applies to areas outside of the home, as well.
You can find this law under the Colorado Revised Statute 18-1-704.5. The law states that any person in control of a premises or dwelling may use deadly physical force against an intruder when:
- Someone has unlawfully entered their home or place of business, AND
- When the occupant of the premises has reasonable grounds for believing that the person has already committed or intends to commit a crime against the property or another person
The homeowner, manager, or employee may also use physical force in defense of a premises or property when:
- The occupant of the premises believes a person is unlawfully trespassing on the premises
- The occupant believes it necessary to prevent an attempt by another individual to commit arson, theft, criminal mischief, or criminal tampering involving property
If the act of self-defense is necessary for the keeping of public safety, health, and peace, the person defending themselves or their property may be immune to prosecution.
What is Colorado’s castle doctrine?
You may also hear the Make My Day law referred to as Colorado’s “castle doctrine.” Both terms apply to CRS 18-1-704.5 and allow the resident of a home to use physical or deadly force to protect themselves or others.
This law is like the Stand Your Ground law in that there is no duty to withdraw or retreat. Even in the case that there is potential for a safe escape route, you are not required to draw back. Instead, you can confront the intruder and even use deadly force in some situations.
The difference is that the Make My Day law (castle doctrine) requires the altercation to occur inside your home. In the case that you reside in an apartment and use force to defend yourself in a common area, this law does not apply. Even if the altercation occurs at your front porch or in the backyard, the castle doctrine does not apply. Your right to use a deadly weapon in self-defense under the Make My Day law begins at the door. Luckily, though, the Stand Your Ground law still stands in circumstances like this.
Why is it called Make My Day law?
The phrase “Make My Day” was first introduced to the United States when Colorado passed the law in 1985. The law intended to protect people from any criminal or civil liability when using physical or deadly force against an intruder.
The nickname became coined in reference to the line of “Go ahead. Make my day.” This phrase essentially means go ahead and do something so I have a reason to kill you. It comes from the 1983 film Sudden Impact and is originally stated by “Dirty Harry” Callahan, played by actor Clint Eastwood.
Can you go to jail for self-defense?
The only way you would go to jail for self-defense is if you acted outside of the reasonable limits of force and if your lawyer cannot prove it was an act of defense.
The use of self-defense is a legal defense in the court of law. It is often only used in order to protect against charges of violent crimes. If your lawyer is successful in showing that you were acting to defend yourself, you will not be liable for these crimes.
These violent crimes may include:
- Domestic violence
- Domestic violence occurs when you commit an act of assault on someone you are in an intimate relationship with. Self-defense is a common legal defense for charges of domestic violence. To be successful in your claim of self-defense, you must prove that you weren’t the aggressor and only responded with reasonable force.
- First-degree assault
- First-degree assault charges occur when someone intentionally and severely injures someone else. Though it does not involve a fatality, it often involves use of a deadly weapon. If you caused serious injuries to someone, you may get accused of first-degree assault. However, if you can prove it was an act of self-defense, you will not be liable for this charge.
- Second-degree assault
- Second-degree assault is similar to first-degree assault in that the act was intentional, but it does not involve as severe of injuries. This is another common legal defense in cases of self-defense.
- Second-degree murder
- Committing the act of second-degree murder means you knowingly killed another person. Unlike first-degree murder, it does not involve premeditation. For this charge, you only need to have been aware that your actions will almost certainly kill someone. If you received charges of second-degree murder but can prove that it was self-defense, you cannot be liable for the crime.
For More Questions, Contact WeedenLaw Today
Jeff Weeden believes that there are two sides to every story. Everyone deserves the right to aggressive defense from an attorney who cares about protecting their rights and fighting for their future. If you got charged with a violent crime in Colorado and seek to prove you acted in self-defense, contact WeedenLaw today. We’ve helped countless clients in their self-defense cases, and we can help you, too. Call us today for a free consultation at 720-307-4330 or fill out our free case review form here.