An affirmative defense is a justification defense. A defendant that claims an affirmative defense admits to committing the underlying charged act but seeks to justify the acts on grounds deemed by law to be sufficient to avoid criminal responsibility. Self-defense is probably the most known affirmative defense, and it is a defense the Lawrence Law Firm has successfully asserted in criminal cases in Arapahoe, Douglas, Denver, Jefferson, and several other courts in Colorado.
The statute outlining self-defense is located at C.R.S. § 18-1-704. In laymen’s terms, the statute provides that a self-defense claim can be raised if a defendant believes he is being attacked and responds with enough force needed to stop that attack. To raise this claim, a defendant only needs to present some credible evidence on the issue. Some credible evidence has been held to be a “scintilla of evidence”. People v. Saavedra-Rodriguez, 971 P. 2d 223, 228 (Colo. 1998).
The strength of self-defense is that it requires the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant committed the charged crime, but it also requires the prosecution to prove that a defendant was not acting in self-defense when they committed the crime. As we already discussed, the self-defense claim gets the prosecution over the first hurdle. The second level of proof needed could be difficult depending on the facts and circumstances of a particular case.
Two-Prong Test of Self-Defense
There are two parts to a self-defense claim. The first is that a defendant was being attacked or reasonably believed he was going to be attacked, and the second is that the defendant responded with the sufficient force to repeal that attack. Both elements are crucial in establishing a self-defense claim and prevailing on that claim at trial.
The first involves facts and evidence concerning who is the initial aggressor. An independent witness is always the best source of evidence in these situations, but most cases do not have this type of evidence. A usual case involves two parties, and each will claim the other attacked first. Evidence is crucial in establishing this part of the defense. Who is injured and where the injuries are import, but the physical evidence should also line up with the statements. If a victim says she was dragged by her hair around a house, you expect the hair to look messy and not put together. The same goes other bruises and injuries. Additionally, police will often base their entire investigation around who has injuries only. This is dubious because it ignores the very real possibility that the attacker didn’t injure the true victim who was required to defend themselves. Finally, motive usually plays a major role in self-defense claims. Establishing that someone was angry enough to attack will help to establish who was the initial aggressor.
Self-defense also includes instances where a defendant reasonably believes they are going to be attacked. This means that a defendant does not have to wait for the attacker to actual harm them but can proactively take steps to defend themselves. In simple terms, you don’t have to wait for a person to pull the trigger of a gun they are pointing at you before you can defend yourself. This requires an analysis of the same factors listed above, such as motive, statements, and all other facts. However, it can also get into evidence that is otherwise prohibited. This is character and pattern evidence.
The second element is that the defender needs to use the amount of force needed to repeal or prevent the attack. The easiest way to understand it is if an attacker is going to hit you, you can hit them. If an attacker is going to use deadly force, you can use deadly force. However, you are not justified in using deadly force against someone who is not using deadly force. This is a complex issue though, and the equations used above are not always this easily applied.
GET AGGRESSIVE Criminal DEFENSE REPRESENTATION
Though self-defense is an easy concept to understand, it is often timing a difficult strategy to employ in a criminal defense case. Prosecutors routinely hear defendant’s claim self-defense and ignore those claims. A skilled and aggressive litigator is needed to convey to the prosecutor the facts and circumstances that would lead a jury to find self-defense. It is also important to have a seasoned attorney who has tried and succeeding in presenting self-defense claims to juries on several occasions. The Lawrence Law Firm has successfully defended several clients in the Denver Metro area based on the affirmative defense of self-defense.
SPEAK WITH A DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ATTORNEY TODAY
We routinely represent individuals accused of criminal offenses and domestic violence charges. We are open during regular business hours, but we will stay late or be available on weekends if necessary. Schedule a free consultation. We are ready, willing, and able to discuss and defend you against any domestic violence charge in Denver, Aurora, Arapahoe County, Adams County or any court in the State of Colorado.