By Josh Amos

In light of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, the criminal defense attorneys of McDermott Stuart & Ward LLP have reviewed Colorado citizen arrest laws to help answer questions regarding what force can be used by a citizen who is making an arrest.

There are many questions surrounding when a non-law enforcement officer, or private citizen, can arrest another individual for committing a crime as this practice dates back to English common law. Cases that involve citizen’s arrest and/or self-defense can be complicated to navigate and require the guidance of experienced Colorado defense counsel. Fortunately, in Colorado we have laws that address when a citizen can make an arrest and what type of force can be used in these circumstances to protect those that have been unlawfully detained.

Is it Legal in Colorado to Make a Citizen’s Arrest?

Yes, it is legal to make a citizen’s arrest in Colorado.

A person can make a citizen’s arrest when a crime has been or is being committed by the suspect in the presence of the person making the arrest. See CRS 16-3-201.

It is important to note that one must actually witness the crime being committed before attempting to make a citizen’s arrest.

Does Colorado Allow a Citizen to Use Force While Making a “Citizen’s Arrest?”

Yes, it is legal to use force when making a citizen’s arrest in Colorado. The amount of force used while making a citizen’s arrest is based on a subjective reasonableness standard. The person making the arrest can use reasonable physical force upon another person when necessary to effect an arrest or to prevent an escape from arrest. The amount of force used must be “reasonable and appropriate.”

Deadly physical force is lawful only when the arresting party reasonably believes it necessary to defend himself or another from the use or imminent use of deadly physical force from the suspect. See CRS 18-1-707(7).

Is Citizen’s Arrest a Colorado Self-Defense?

A citizen’s arrest is an often overlooked Colorado self-defense law which is great for defendants in certain situations.

In Colorado cases, the best part of using this defense can be seen in the jury instructions. The defense gets to put the victim’s name on an elemental instruction for the crime the victim allegedly committed in the presence of the defendant. This is an affirmative defense meaning that the prosecution must disprove that legal self-defense did not occur beyond a reasonable doubt.

Please contact McDermott Stuart & Ward LLP if you have any questions regarding Colorado self-defense laws or citizen’s arrest laws at (303) 832-8888.

About Josh Amos

Josh Amos is a Denver based criminal defense attorney at McDermott Stuart & Ward LLP. Josh has dedicated his career to protecting and defending those that have been accused of committing a crime. He is a highly regarded lawyer with an award-winning career that can expertly guide clients through addressing their state or federal criminal charges. Learn more about Josh Amos.

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