Difference between Assault and Self-Defense in Colorado

In a physical confrontation, there’s a fine line in the difference between assault and self-defense, but the distinction is critically important since punishment for even a misdemeanor assault charge (3rd degree assault) can bring jail time. And your rights to defend your property may not extend as far as you think they do.

The best way to explain the distinction between assault and self-defense is to describe the types of actions that are legally considered self-defense, realizing that if the physical encounter doesn’t fall within those boundaries, it could be considered assault.

If you have any questions about representation in an assault or self-defense matter in Denver or the surrounding counties, don’t hesitate to call Wolf Law today at (720) 479-8574.

Colorado’s self-defense laws allow people to:

  1. Defend a person (yourself or another person) from physical force; however, the use of deadly force is only allowed if it appears the attacker may seriously assault, kidnap, or sexually assault the person.
  2. Defend themselves within their own residence. Known as the “Make My Day Law,” in this case the use of deadly force is allowed as long as it appears that intruder might commit a crime (including robbery) and that the intruder might use physical force. This right to use deadly force is only allowed inside the residence. If the intruder is on the porch, at the door, in the yard or has left the premises, the relatively low threshold that allows for use of deadly force under Make My Day is no longer in effect.
  3. Defend a premises or other property (other than their home which is covered in #2). The ability to use deadly force in this environment comes with the same restrictions as in #1.

Most other physical altercations between people could be considered assault. In Colorado, assault comes in three levels:

  1. 3rd degree assault, a misdemeanor, is knowingly or recklessly causing bodily injury to someone. The standard for bodily injury is very low—causing momentary pain could be included in the definition.
  2. 2nd degree assault, a felony, is either assault using a deadly weapon or causing serious bodily injury. In some circumstances, a punch or a kick could be considered an assault.
  3. 1st degree assault, is causing serious bodily injury, much like 2nd degree assault, however the bodily injury is inflicted through the use of a deadly weapon.

For both 1st and 2nd Degree assaults (collectively referred to as “crimes of violence”) the intent to cause injury must be proven. Self-defense is one possible defense that can be used in these cases. Also, proving that the attack was a “crime of passion” committed in the “heat of the moment” could be a mitigating factor that could lessen the charge. However, if convicted of 1st or 2nd degree assault there are mandatory prison sentences of 10-32 years under 1st degree and 5-16 years for 2nd degree charges.

If you’ve been arrested for assault or have been involved in a self-defense altercation in the Denver area, you need expert legal guidance. Wolf Law has experienced criminal defense attorneys serving Coloradans facing criminal charges. Contact Wolf Law today for a free consultation.