Understanding the Make My Day Law
Here in Colorado, homeowners deserve the right to feel safe in their homes and to protect their family and property when someone threatens them. The Make My Day law grants homeowners legal immunity when they are threatened in a burglary or home invasion and respond accordingly. Depending on the nature of your case, this law may be key in keeping you out of jail.
What Does the Law Say?
The Colorado Make My Day law was enacted in 1985. It gives homeowners immunity from prosecution if they shoot and kill an intruder in their home under certain conditions. The statute states that an occupant of a dwelling is justified in using any degree of physical force, even deadly physical force, against a person who has unlawfully entered the dwelling, if:
- The occupant reasonably believes the intruder has committed, is committing, or will commit any crime in addition to unlawful entry; and
- The occupant reasonably believes the intruder might use physical force against an occupant of the dwelling.
Is There a Duty to Retreat In Colorado?
Under the Duty to Retreat doctrine, deadly force is allowed only as a last resort. Under this concept, you cannot use deadly force, even for self-defense, if you can safely avoid the risk of harm or death by other means, such as by running away. But in Idrogo v. People, the Colorado Supreme Court held in 1991 that “an innocent victim of assault is not bound to retreat before using deadly force when the use of such force is reasonable under the circumstances.”
What If the Intruder Is Not Armed?
If an intruder in your home is unarmed, the Make My Day law still applies. Under the statute, fists can qualify as weapons against which you are defending yourself or other occupants of your home. To have immunity for using deadly force, you are only required to believe at the time that the intruder is, has, or will commit a crime (in addition to entering your home unlawfully), and that the intruder may use physical force against you or another occupant of your dwelling.
What Are the Location Limits for the Make My Day Law?
The Make My Day law only applies when an intruder has entered your dwelling. It does not give you license to shoot and kill an intruder in your backyard or on your front porch. As an example, a Denver man was convicted of second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder for shooting two teenage boys, wounding one and killing the other. The boys had climbed a fence into his backyard to steal marijuana plants. The defendant shot at the boys from a second-story window with a .22-caliber rifle, as reported by The Gazette.
Neither does the Make My Day law apply if you shoot someone in self-defense on public property or in another situation outside the home. However, other self-defense laws may be applicable under the circumstances.
Can You Be Sued in Civil Court for Shooting an Intruder?
In some cases, a person exonerated or acquitted of a crime may face an action in civil court; for example, a wrongful death case brought by family members of the deceased (as with O.J. Simpson). However, the Make My Day statute states specifically, “Any occupant of a dwelling using physical force, including deadly force, in accordance with the provisions of subsection (2) of this section shall be immune from any civil liability for injuries or death resulting from the use of such force.” In other words, when the Make My Day law applies, not only are you immune from criminal prosecution for the use of force, but you cannot be sued for damages.
Here at The Bussey Law Firm, P.C., our legal team has an in-depth understanding of this law. Trial attorney Timothy R. Bussey set a historic precedent for the Make My Day law in the case of People v. Rau, successfully protecting his client from a murder conviction.
If you are concerned about criminal penalties for acting in self-defense, call The Bussey Law Firm, P.C., at (719) 475-2555 to schedule a free consultation. Although we all have the right to defend ourselves, immunity for self-defense can vary, depending on the situation. Our Colorado Springs criminal defense attorney can advise you of your options under the law.