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Youtuber Shooting and Colorado Self-Defense

By: Lain A. Lawrence - Criminal Defense Attorney Oct. 3, 2023

Individuals have a right to defend themselves. Defending yourself is a fundamental human right. It is the basis for our Second Amendment.

Self-defense is a legal concept that most individuals hear when watching legal dramas or reading articles. The actual working of self-defense is not well known though. 

It is important to understand self-defense. Self-defense will almost always involve a violent crime. A person alleged to commit a crime will always face jail time as a potential penalty.

Knowing your rights and how to utilize them helps to protect you from dangers in the world. Knowing can alleviate your need for a criminal defense attorney.

A recent case that has been in the news helps to highlight some of the important aspects of self-defense. The case is out of Virginia, and a jury found the defendant not guilty this week.

What are the facts of People v. Alan Colie?

Alan Colie was the subject of a YouTube prankster by the name of Tanner Cook. The defendant's employment is delivery driver.  Evidence in the case included a video recording of the incident. It depicts the incident between Mr. Colie and Mr. Cook.

Mr. Cook approaches Mr. Colie in a mall food court. Two other individuals accompany Mr. Cook.

Mr. Cook has a recording on his phone that is nonsensical. Mr. Cook shoves the in-Mr. Colie's face. The defendant walks away from the three individuals.

Mr. Cook follows Mr. Colie. Shortly after the initial confrontation, Mr. Colie pulls a gun from his waistband and short Mr. Cook.

Mr. Colie was charged with aggravated assault and lesser gun crimes. He was acquitted of the serious allegations, and the jury found him guilty of one of the lesser crimes.

The case helps to highlight some of the important legal elements of self-defense in Colorado.

What is Self-Defense under Colorado Law?

Self-defense is “use of physical force in defense of a person” in our criminal justice system. Colorado Revised Statute 18-1-704 provides the elements of self-defense.

A defendant is justified in using force to defend themselves from an attack. The defendant can either be under attack or reasonably believe he is going to be attacked. A defendant may use a degree of force which he reasonably believes is necessary for that purpose.

Deadly force may be used if a defendant believes less force is inadequate and one of the following factors is applicable:

1.      The defendant believes they are in imminent of being killed or receiving great bodily injury.

2.      The alleged victim is committing or attempting to commit a burglary; or,

3.      The alleged victim is committing or attempting to commit a robbery, kidnapping, or sexual assault.

Reducing the statute to its simplest terms, a defendant needs to show two elements to establish the defense of self-defense. First, a defendant needs to show they had a reasonable belief about being attacked. Second, the defendant will be required to establish they used reasonable for to repeal that attack.  

These are complex legal questions. A criminal defense lawyer would be able to help explain to these in detail.

What is a reasonable belief concerning being attacked?

The reasonable belief about being attacked is personalized to the individual defendant, but it is analyzed from an objective person perspective. This means the question is not whether a person in the defendant’s situation would believe they are being attacked.

The objective person would be a person like the defendant. An objective person for a 18-year-old high school student would be a similar situation person. The hypothetical person does not have to be identical. An objective 18-year-old high school student is sufficient. 

This analysis can be simple. In some cases, multiple witnesses come forward to describe what they saw. In others, a person is actively being attacked. Other cases are not as clear cut. 

In those cases, a criminal lawyer will need to look at every fact of the case. Important facts include the relationship of the parties, possible motives, and any statements made.

The Colie case is difficult. In that case, the alleged victim was harassing the defendant. There was no force being used, other than shoving the phone in the face. 

There was no relationship between the parties, and it appears the alleged victim pursued the defendant as he fled. The following is perhaps the most important factor. A defendant does not have to wait to be under attack. They can respond before an attack happens if they can provide a reason for thinking it will.

In the case involving Mr. Colie, the alleged victim does not use force. However, he does approach in an unexplained and unjustified manner. He then follows the defendant as he attempts to flee. These actions would provide a basis for a reasonable person to fear harm. 

What is Reasonable Force in Self-Defense?

There needs to be an equivalency of the forces. A defendant would not be permitted to use force beyond that needed to repeal an attack.

A common example is if someone is going to punch a defendant, the defendant would not be use deadly force. On the other hand, a defendant being threatened with deadly force can respond with deadly force. 

This element is connected to the first. A defendant that believes a defendant has a deadly weapon can use deadly force. The question will always be whether the defendant has a reasonable belief that the victim had a deadly weapon.

A common problem seen in self-defense cases is when the force ends. In some cases, a defendant can exceed the amount of force needed to defend themselves. In those cases, the defense could be considered retaliation and outside the realm of self-defense. 

Looking at the Colie case, the defendant would have issues with this element under Colorado self-defense law. There isn’t any indication that deadly force was threatened against the defendant. The best argument would be that the defendant was not sure about what the person had on them. It is not reasonable to expect a citizen to wait and see what the intentions of a potential attacker would do.

What happens when a self-defense claim is made?

Self-defense is an affirmative defense. This means that the defendant admits to the underlying crime; however, the law provides a justification for that crime. 

The prosecution has the burden of proving the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecution will also have to prove that a defendant was not acting in self-defense. 

The prosecution will attack the two elements above. They will also look at all the facts to try and establish initial aggressor or retaliation. 

A defendant may also face other criminal offenses. The types of defenses available to these cases will be based on various aspects of criminal law.

Speak with a Criminal Defense Attorney if you have a self-defense claim to a crime.

Claiming self-defense is extremely difficult. The claim is very dependent on the facts of your case. It takes a skilled self-defense attorney to understand how best to present the facts of your case and arguments. It is never advisable to hire a criminal defense attorney.

The prosecution is not on your side, and you are working in a system with rules you do not understand. At the very minimum, request a consultation. The criminal defense attorney has handled several criminal cases involving self-defense. These cases involve assault or domestic violence.

Litigation of legal defenses happen routinely in criminal trials. Legal representation helps to present these defenses in the best way possible. A person charged with a crime should always seek legal representation.

We are here to help and aid you in defending your rights. Knowing your rights is just as important as knowing how to defend yourself. We offer free consultations and flexible payment plans.