From the Desk of Detective Dave

Knowledge is power! Detective Dave Baumhover keeps the community up to date on criminal activity so they can help prevent it, along with other topics of community interest.

Understanding Self-Defense Laws
By Det. Dave Baumhover #975
Frederick Police Department

The recent reports of home intrusions have raised the obvious question, but not so obvious answer for some. That question is, “what can I do if a stranger walks into my house?” If you search the internet, you’ll probably find some articles from local media outlets that reference a “Make My Day” law that “gives gun owners the right to shoot and kill an intruder.” 

Although this is true, it is a bit misleading. An excerpt from the actual Colorado statute (C.R.S. 18-1-704.5) states, “Any occupant of a dwelling is justified in using any degree of physical force, including deadly physical force.” The key word here is “occupant” which means any person in the dwelling who may not even own the dwelling or a gun. The statute makes no reference to homeowners or gun owners.

The statute also states that physical force is justified when used “against another person when that other person has made an unlawful entry into the dwelling, and when the occupant has a reasonable belief that such other person has committed a crime in the dwelling in addition to the uninvited entry, or is committing or intends to commit a crime against a person or property in addition to the uninvited entry, and when the occupant reasonably believes that such other person might use any physical force, no matter how slight, against any occupant.”

The other key words / statements here are, “dwelling” and “reasonably believes”, with an emphasis on what is considered reasonable. For example, If you’re chasing an intruder from the dwelling (typically a house) and using deadly physical force against them, you’re likely to be charged criminally.  

I hope you’ll never be forced to make this type of decision, but if you do follow the law, you’ll be immune to criminal prosecution and civil liability. This article only scratches the surface of self-defense laws, so if you have any questions please feel free to contact me directly.