December 1, 2022
Imagine you are in a fight with your spouse. Things get out of hand, and he or she threatens you with a knife. After unsuccessfully trying to defend yourself with words, you may feel you have no choice but to use physical force to prevent yourself from being injured or killed. You assume you are justified in your actions because you are acting in self-defense, so it comes as a nasty shock when police officers arrive on the scene and arrest you for domestic violence.
It’s natural to want to defend yourself when you are in danger, and the law recognizes your right to do so if you, your property, or other people are illegally threatened. However, Colorado self-defense laws are complex and often confusing. If you used physical force to defend yourself, it is still possible to be arrested, charged, and convicted of a domestic violence crime.
Domestic Violence and Self-Defense in Colorado
In Colorado, law enforcement officials must make an arrest if they have probable cause to believe a domestic violence crime has occurred.
In order to determine whether domestic violence has occurred, the arresting officer must consider:
- Whether there have been any previous domestic violent complaints against you
- The severity of injuries on each party
- The likelihood of future injuries to both parties
- Whether either party acted in self-defense
Under Colorado law, self-defense can be defined as the use of physical force in order to defend yourself or another when there is a reasonable belief that the other person will or has already used physical force against you or another person. The amount of force you are allowed to use in self-defense can only be what is reasonably necessary under the circumstances.
In order to determine whether a party acted in self-defense, investigation and testimonies are reviewed to determine if the use of force was justified. If the court finds the use of force was not justified under self-defense statutes, it can result in a domestic violence conviction.
What to Do If You Are Accused of Domestic Violence
If you are accused of domestic violence, you must act very carefully—even if you believe you acted out of self-defense. The odds are stacked against you, and everything you say and do could be scrutinized and used as evidence by the prosecutor.
Below, we’ve listed some tips to remember when being investigated for a domestic violence crime.
Your statement can be used against you. If you believe you have properly used your right to defend yourself, your instinct may be to tell this to the police when they arrive on the scene. However, admitting to using force—even if it was in self-defense—is not always the best decision. The difference between lawful self-defense and domestic violence is not always clear, and oftentimes your statements can be turned against you in court.
If you do make a statement, you must be extremely cautious with your choice of words. You may identify yourself, then explain how the aggressor illegally threatened you—whether they harmed you, attempted to rape or kidnap you, or verbally threatened to injure you. Keep your statement as brief as possible, revealing only enough information to establish yourself as the victim of a crime. Remember that any inconsistencies in what you say may be used to undermine your credibility in court.
Seek medical assistance. If you have injuries, seek medical attention immediately. Not only is this essential for your physical well-being, it will provide documented evidence of any injuries you suffered to support your claim that you acted in self-defense. If you can, arrange to have your injuries photographed and described in your medical records.
Contact a lawyer. If the police attempt to question or arrest you, invoke your right to remain silent and contact a Colorado self-defense attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney will speak on your behalf, ensuring you will not accidently incriminate yourself and aggravate the charges against you. And if you are charged with domestic violence, your attorney can defend your right to self-defense in court.
A domestic violence conviction can result in a lengthy prison sentence, heavy fines, and a lifelong stain on your permanent record. You may be forbidden from contacting your family or living in your home. Don’t gamble with your freedom and future by trying to navigate the complicated Colorado self-defense and domestic violence laws alone. Contact an experienced domestic violence attorney who can help you understand your rights and fight for your vindication.
About the Author:
Denver-based criminal defense and DUI attorney Jacob E. Martinez is a knowledgeable and experienced litigator with a record of success providing innovative solutions to clients facing criminal charges of any severity. Mr. Martinez has been designated a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers and has been awarded both the Avvo Client’s Choice Award and Avvo Top Attorney designation, evidencing his reputation for his exemplary criminal and DUI defense work and high moral standards.