The reason why self-defense laws exist is that everyone should have the right to protect themselves and their loved ones in dangerous situations when law enforcement cannot get there fast enough. However, the tricky thing about these laws is that if there can be an argument that too much force is involved, it can lead to the person defending themselves being in their own legal trouble. Here are the basics to know to avoid having self-defense turn into an assault or even worse a murder charge.
Make my day laws
In Colorado, the Make My Day law allows people to protect themselves and their families by any means including lethal force if someone comes onto your property with bad intent. This means if an armed robber breaks into your home, you have the right to do what is necessary to stop them including lethal use but this argument may be more difficult to make if they do not have a weapon or you cannot guarantee ill intent.
What constitutes imminent danger
Imminent danger is going to be one of the biggest factors that law enforcement will consider when it comes to self-defense as an argument. There has to be a clear reason to believe that the person approaching you was about to harm you. If a person comes up to you aggressively and has a weapon or lunges to assault you, it will be much more clear-cut. But if it was an interaction that may have begun in less nefarious ways and there could be an argument that you started the incident first, then self-defense as a reason could be thrown out the window. If the person who was harmed can show that you approached first or that you escalated a verbal argument into a physical one, it could mean that you can have assault charges against you, even if in the end you felt like you were merely defending yourself.
What constitutes excessive force
In addition to imminent danger, the other main element that the court will take into account is if excessive force was used. Again, if someone were to aggressively come into your home brandishing a weapon and they were about to use it then there would be little doubt that you may need to use lethal force to take down the threat. But if this person were to have a gun and you shot them in the leg and that neutralized the threat, then any further action like shooting to kill would be considered excessive force and could land you with murder charges. It’s important to understand even in the heat of the moment that self-defense laws can only be applied to equal or lesser force than what is being brought upon you. Anything more can turn you into the aggressor and the other party into the victim, at least in the court of law.
To sum up, these laws are here to help everyone to be at least somewhat self-reliant when it comes to their own safety but it can be a slippery slope when it comes to how much force is too much. One has to think about this no matter how difficult it is to do in the heat of the moment.