Before you plan an elaborate Halloween costume and set out the carved pumpkin on your doorstep, let’s discuss the mischief and dangers that lurk around the Halloween season. Members frequently inquire about their ability to use force to defend their property against loitering, vandalism, or criminal mischief.
Defending Against Halloween Mischief
In Colorado, physical force may be used to protect property from theft, criminal mischief, or criminal tampering, but only the degree of force a jury deems “reasonable and appropriate” under the circumstances. Such “reasonable and appropriate” physical force similarly may be used to prevent an unlawful trespass. Such force, however, may only be used to prevent such a crime; it cannot be justified when the crime is already complete.
Perhaps, more importantly, a person is rarely justified in using deadly force to protect property. Deadly force generally may only be used when the actor has reasonable ground to believe, and does believe, that he or another person is in imminent danger of being killed or of receiving great bodily injury. The limited property-based exceptions to this general rule are that deadly force may be used when reasonably necessary to prevent the use of physical force against a person during a burglary, to prevent a robbery, or to prevent a first-degree arson.
Also, under C.R.S. 18-1-704.5, Colorado’s codification of the “Castle Doctrine,” the occupant of a dwelling may use any degree of force, including deadly force, when a person has made an unlawful entry into the dwelling and the occupant reasonably believes the intruder is going to commit an additional crime inside and use any degree of physical force against the occupant. The requirement of entry into the dwelling means that deadly force becomes available only after the intruder has entered the home itself—not when the intruder is merely on the property—even the front porch.
So in a nutshell, while you may use lesser degrees of force to prevent Halloween revelers from trespassing or damaging your property, you should not make use of a firearm unless there is an imminent threat to your life or an intruder has entered home.
Carrying a Firearm While Wearing a Costume
Though the global pandemic may alter plans for Halloween this year, if you do venture out in costume, the general laws relating to the carrying of firearms continue to apply. You must have a concealed weapons permit to carry concealed, and any other weapons that form part of your “costume” must be legal in Colorado—but do not accessorize your 1930s gangster costume with brass knuckles or a short-barreled shotgun.
For any questions regarding activities and home defense during Halloween, call U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.
The preceding should not be construed as legal advice nor the creation of an attorney-client relationship. This is not an endorsement or solicitation for any service. Your situation may be different, so please contact your attorney regarding your specific circumstances. Because the laws, judges, juries, and prosecutors vary from location to location, similar or even identical facts and circumstances to those described in this presentation may result in significantly different legal outcomes. This presentation is by no means a guarantee or promise of any particular legal outcome, positive, negative, or otherwise.
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