How Colorado Handles Self-Defense in Domestic Violence Cases

Domestic violence is a serious offense in Colorado, and the laws clearly outline what the justice system considers domestic violence.

While the definition of domestic violence may be clear in the state, the idea that someone was defending themselves against the abuse of another isn’t as clear. It’s common in domestic violence cases for the party being accused of domestic violence to say they were only acting in self-defense. However, anyone claiming self-defense can only argue it successfully in court by proving it.

Here’s what you need to know about domestic violence in Colorado and how to prove you were acting in self-defense when charged with a domestic violence crime.

What Does Colorado Consider Domestic Violence?

Under Colorado law, domestic violence is defined as acts of physical violence against people and property in certain circumstances. In order for a violent act to be considered domestic violence in the state, it must be perpetrated against someone with whom they’ve had or currently have an intimate relationship.

That means that crimes of domestic violence have to be perpetrated against certain people, namely those with whom you have what the law considers an intimate relationship. That is, someone to whom you have been or are currently married, someone with whom you have been or are currently in a dating relationship, or someone with whom you share a child regardless of whether or not you’ve ever been married.

It’s important to note that domestic violence is not an offense all by itself but an enhancement for a violent act. A sentence will be more severe if the court finds that the crime was a domestic violence crime. You can end up with a longer sentence, plus an additional required evaluation and treatment if found guilty.

What Is Self-Defense in Colorado?

In Colorado, you are legally able to defend yourself if:

  • The force you used is reasonable to protect yourself or others from bodily harm
  • You act in response to an attack by an aggressor, or
  • You react to a situation where you reasonably believe you or others are in danger

In order to use self-defense as a defense against crimes of domestic violence, you have to be able to show the court the following things:

You Believed You Were in Danger

You must be able to show that you believed you were in imminent danger of bodily harm. This isn’t simply proven by saying so. You must present evidence like documented wounds sustained, police reports, and witness statements.

The Force You Used was Reasonable

Self-defense is only seen as a legitimate defense by the court if you can show that you not only believed yourself to be in danger – you also acted in a way that was reasonable based on the level of danger you perceived.

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You Didn’t Intend To Do Harm

It’s also important to demonstrate to the court that you didn’t intend to do harm to someone else when the altercation occurred. You want to demonstrate that you were simply considering your own safety. This has to be corroborated by witnesses.

Build a Proper Defense

If you’re battling domestic violence charges, then you must do what you can to mount a good defense. If you believed you acted out of self-defense, work with an experienced attorney who will help show the court that the actions you took were reasonable when faced with a threat of bodily harm.


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 recognized by countless legal organizations for his exemplary defense work, including Avvo, Best DWI Attorneys, Expertise, Lawyers of Distinction, The National Trial Lawyers, and others. He was also named one of the 10 Best in Client Satisfaction in Colorado by the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys for 2020, and is Lead Counsel rated.