“Yea but he started it”—A Guide to Self-Defense

“Yea but he started it”—A Guide to Self-Defense

Even before we become adults, we know about self-defense as an excuse for behavior. One brother gets in trouble with his parents for hitting his brother, and “he started it” are the first words out of his mouth. There’s something intuitive about the right to defend yourself, and in society the law recognizes that. In Colorado, people are allowed to use physical force to defend themselves or other people, their homes, or their property.[1] If you’re facing a charge of assault, you may not get in trouble if you were acting in self-defense.  You need to contact a self defense attorney right away!

A person can use force to defend herself or another person under certain circumstances. First, the person must have a reasonable belief that either she or another person is being attacked or about to be attacked by another person. If a person is just in argument that is getting loud, that’s probably not enough. If a person gets physically attacked or a punch is thrown, though, her belief that she is having force used against her is certainly reasonable, and she can use force to defend herself. But there’s a limit. The second requirement for force in defense of a person is that the degree of force used is only what the person “reasonably believes is necessary” to protect herself or another person. So if a person swings a punch at you, you’re not entitled to beat that person nearly to death with a lawn chair. Instead, if you tackled the person and pinned him down until help arrived, that would be a reasonable degree of force. Deadly force, however, may only be used under particular circumstances, and the laws regarding deadly force vary depending on factors like location of incident.[2]

A person can also use force to defend property. She can use physical force on a person when she reasonably believes it is necessary to prevent what she reasonably believes to be an attempt by the other person to commit theft, criminal mischief (damage to property), or criminal tampering involving property. So if a friend picks up your phone off of a table to bring it to you, you couldn’t hit your friend because you’d have no reason to believe the friend would take it or destroy the phone. If a total stranger, though, picks up your phone and begins to run away with it, you would have a reasonable belief that theft was occurring. You would be entitled to use force, but only the amount of force that is reasonably necessary to prevent the theft or defend the property. So here, again, death-by-lawn chair is not okay. But tackling a person who is committing theft and holding them down until help arrives would be fine.

Ultimately, if you’re accused of assault or some charge regarding your use of force against a person, you need a self defense attorney. Self-defense or defense of property may be available to you, and an experienced criminal defense attorney can advise you regarding your best options. Hiring a self defense attorney early is crucial. At CGH we have successfully obtained dismissal of charges and deferred prosecutions of assault charges by raising these defenses early in the process. Call us today.

[1] Colorado Revised Statutes § 18-1-701 et seq.

 

[2] For more information, see C.R.S. § 18-1-704, 704.5

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