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Colorado Self Defense Law – How To Avoid Being Charged Yourself – Dealing With The Police Investigators

By Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer – Attorney for the Right Of Self Defense In Colorado – H. Michael Steinberg

Colorado Self Defense Law is confusing – while the laws are much the same as they are around the country- (and I have addressed self defense laws in other articles) – this article addresses the strategic and tactical decisions made at the scene of an Colorado assault or homicide.

Colorado Self Defense Law

Colorado Self Defense Law

You should not assume that because you think you had the right to assert self defense in a situation – that you understand this complex area of Colorado criminal law – or that your defense will be successful.

Colorado self-defense cases are fundamentally different than almost any other criminal prosecution… This article introduces some practical steps for the post assault contact with the police – what to do – what to say – what not to say – what not to do.

Colorado Self Defense Law -I’m Innocent – “It Was Self Defense” What Have I got to lose by talking to the police?

The Scene of The Crime – Assaults and Self Defense In Colorado

What occurs at the scene of a crime is – well  – “complicated.”  After 911 is called – the police arrive and they begin their investigation. If you are the victimn – you must remember you are unrepresented – and this critical time is fraught with danger to your case. Even if believe you have properly utilized your right to defend yourself, you should consider carefully the decision – whether – AT THAT TIME – you should make a statement to the police.

You must understand – that self defense is an affirmative defense – you are actually admitting committing the crime – using force – to cause bodily injury, serious bodily injury or even death.

If you are wrong about your right to that defense – you may – at trial – be convicted of the crime – and in many instances in Colorado of first or second degree assault – you will be sent to prison…to the Colorado Department of Corrections. 

The Legal Line Between A Successful Assertion of Self Defense – and A Mistake Is A Very Tin Line

The line between lawful self-defense and the failure of that defense leading to a conviction can be very thin – it may depend on the perception of witnesses – if any – and the statements you may mistakenly made at the scene of the assault.. What you to say to the police – your words – are carefully scrutinized first by the police, then by the lawyers followed by judges and the jurors at trial…if the case goes to trial.

The question is this – are you ready to speak – consider whether immediately following a vicious assault, stabbing or shooting, .. Are you emotionally prepared to give an accurate statement?

If you believe that “I have not done anything wrong and only real criminals really need a lawyer” – you are not thinking clearly and your thinking ignores the truth of the dysfunction that is the Colorado criminal justice system.

How Do Your Miranda Rights Figure Into The Equation?

Like most people – the Miranda decision may confuse you. Miranda ONLY applies to “custodial statements.” The question of just “when” you are “in custody” is never clear. Custody can occur well before you are actually placed under arrest and handcuffed. The most common test applied in court to determine custody is this.

If you ask if you can leave the scene and or go home and the police say “no, then you are in custody and your Miranda rights apply. If you don’t ask, your Miranda rights might still apply “if a reasonable person in your shoes would not think he or she could leave the scene.”

“Can I leave” is much less confrontational then the question “am I under arrest” and gets the job done.

The officer may ask for “your side of the story” and ask that you make that statement at the station. If you are asked to “come to the station” and you go you are probably not under arrest.  My recommendation is -before you go to police station, call your lawyer first. If the police arrest you, talk to an attorney before you talk with them.

What Should You Say – What Should You Avoid In Asserting Your Self Defense Claim In Colorado?

If you decide to make a statement at the scene of the assault .. Be careful.. Very careful.

First –  Identify yourself.

Next – · Briefly explain what the aggressor did – he threatened you, assaulted you, tried to kidnap or rape you, etc.

Do not get into details at this point, just establish for the initial police investigation – that you were the victim of a crime… not the aggressor.

If your attacker or attackers escaped, describe them to the officer.

If you have injuries – ask for medical assistance and go to the hospital – do not resist this – it will also document your injuries..

Identify all locate able – or even non-locate-able · If there is ANY important evidence or witnesses close by = make certain to point them out then and there to the investigating authority.

Finally  – Assert your right to a lawyer after all of the above has been completed  – tell the officer that you want to talk with your lawyer before giving a more detailed statement and resist saying anything else.

Keep Your Claim Of Self Defense Brief – Post Traumatic Stress and Recall

The temptation after a critical incident where you gave exercised your right to self defense – is to talk and talk until they listen to and believe you – but consider this.  After a traumatic event your perceptions and memory are impaired. It is well known to those of us who practice criminal defense in Colorado – that the psychological and physiological reactions to the stress of an  incident impacts the minds ability to recall events accurately.

Perception of details is impaired – if you make mistakes in details such as distances – shots fired – or inconsistencies that relate to the later scientific analysis (CSI) analysis of the scene – at a later trial – your testimony will be impeached – attacked for those weaknesses.

If you later tell a follow up Detective about the crime – and you are inconsistent as between your “versions” of the offense – you run the risk of not being believed and – may even be seen as a liar.

Your Statements Made To Medical Personnel At The Scene Or At The Hospital

While statements made to medical personnel may be privileged – these statements are often overheard by law enforcement and lay witnesses. Furthermore- a good DA may find a way to “pierce the privilege.” Therefore address your medical injuries and NOT the facts of the incident – or addressing your defense.

Have Your Injuries Thoroughly Photographed

Have any and all injuries photographed and – or measured and described in your medical records.

Why Do Even “Experienced” Defendants STILL Make Statements?

A recent study at Williams College which focused on police interrogations found that both the innocent AND the guilty in a mock theft case made statements against their interest:

“…but the innocent participants were much more likely to waive their rights, by a margin of 81% to 36%. Of the innocent participants, 72% said they did so because they were innocent and had nothing to hide.  

Of those guilty participants, 92% of those who waived their rights said they did so because they didn’t want to look suspicious. They hoped to lie persuasively and talk their way out of trouble.”

The study found that innocent people have a naïve faith in the power of their innocence to set them free. They trust the police and believe that the police will fairly and intelligently treat their statements.

How The Mind Works – How We Recall Events – Or Why You Should Wait To Make A Statements To The Police – Why It Makes Sense To Wait Before Giving Your Statement

The mind is not a videotape machine. As human beings – we constantly edit memories – fill gaps – create more consistent versions of the newly acquired data we take into our minds and solve “problems” of contradictory intake.

The danger in an immediate debrief after a traumatic event is that the suspect may make statements in response to leading questions by the police that are untrue upon reflection.  if you try to reconcile the two statements at some later point in time  – you are accused of lying.

If You Decide To Make A Statement – Ask That It Be Recorded – Audio and -or Video

If you do waive your Miranda rights and give a statement, make certain it is recorded.  

A verbatim  recording captures tone of voice and – if video – non-verbal cues that point the way to the truth. At trial – there is no need to rely on the police officer’s version of what you said – you said. Video especially captures everything that was said,- and is not someone else’s summary of what was said.

A statement might also be written down – if you are asked to sign a statement purporting to be your version of the events – Read it carefully! Make certain it is accurate and make certain it is complete and includes everything you told police.

If your statement is not recorded – what classically happens in Colorado is that the officer will not write a statement for you to sign  – but will instead later write a report that will be used in court.

That report – purporting to represent your statements – may be completely FALSE – At trial – it will be your word against the police officer or detective’s notes.

You will lose that fight every time.

Police Officers Are Allowed To Lie To You Or To Mislead You – And It Is Legal

Believe it or not – law enforcement can lie to you in order to obtain incriminating statements. What is incriminating is a moving target — the accusation “twisting my words” should come to mind at this point.  Non-existent witnesses or non-existent forensics evidence and test results are common techniques Without a Colorado criminal defense lawyer to walk you through this process – you are at a definite disadvantage.

Ask for a lawyer – this ends the questioning and protects your rights to control how you want your statement to be given.. WITH your lawyer.

Finally – Do NOT Take A Polygraph – It Is Another Trick

The “opportunity” to take the polygraph test is a trick.  The police have already made up their minds that you are guilty.  They may use the polygraph “examination” to try to trap you into making a confession – creating inconsistent statements as to earlier versions – or to confuse you by using leading question techniques that attempt to obtain your agreement.

Accreditation is given to a series of articles and research done by Lisa J. Steele – an excellent  criminal defense attorney who represents indigent defendants in the Connecticut and Massachusetts appellate courts. Thank you Lisa  for your excellent work and allowing me to build upon some of your ideas… 

Please call our law firm if you have questions about ..

Colorado Self Defense Law

H. Michael Steinberg has been a Colorado criminal law specialist attorney for 30 years (as of 2012). For the first 13 years of his career, he was an Arapahoe – Douglas County District Attorney Senior  prosecutor. In 1999 he formed his own law firm for the defense of Colorado criminal cases.

In addition to handling tens of thousands of cases in the criminal trial courts of Colorado, he has written hundreds of articles regarding the practice of Colorado criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on the Fox News Channel, CNN and Various National and Local Newspapers and Radio Stations.  Please call him at your convenience at 720-220-2277. 

If you have questions about Colorado Self Defense Law in the Denver metropolitan area and throughout Colorado, attorney H. Michael Steinberg will be pleased to answer those questions and will also provide quality legal representation to those charged in Colorado with adult and juvenile criminal matters as regards …….. Colorado Self Defense Law.


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___________________________
H. Michael Steinberg Esq.
Attorney and Counselor at Law
The Colorado Criminal Defense Law Firm of H. Michael Steinberg
A Denver, Colorado Lawyer Focused Exclusively On
Colorado Criminal Law For Over 30 Years.
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