Call Today 720.999.9506
Strive to Give Each Client Superior Legal Representation While Maintaining the Highest Standards in Our Practice

Criminal Law: Examining Colorado’s “Make My Day” Law

Are you liable if someone breaks into your house and, fearing for your safety or the safety of your family, you attack them? 

Well, in Colorado, according to the “Make My Day” law, maybe not. 

What is the “Make My Day” Law? 

The statute is codified at C.R.S. §18-1-704.5, “Use of deadly physical force against an intruder” (you can read the law in its entirety HERE). Colloquially, it’s called the “Make My Day” law, a reference to Clint Eastwood’s famous line in the 1983 movie “Sudden Impact.” 

Essentially, the law says that Colorado citizens may use deadly force when somebody breaks into their house and if they’re worried about their safety and/or the safety of their family. 

The spirit of the law is consistent with other laws Colorado has passed with regards to guns and personal autonomy; it’s the mentality that Colorado is part of the Wild, Wild West where every man is for himself. Along similar lines, Colorado was one of the last states to make seatbelts a requirement, and even in 2019, there is no law requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets. 

Under newly-elected Governor Jared Polis’ administration, things appear to be shifting, but for now at least, the “Make My Day” law is still very much alive and well in the State of Colorado. 

Complications Arising from the “Make My Day” Law

The law may seem straightforward, and in some cases it is, but like I always say, every case is different. The complication arises when someone starts asking questions like, “When is it justified to use deadly force? What level of force is appropriate for what level of breaking and entering?”

Take, for example, one situation in Boulder that was a bit troubling. A drunk college student mistakenly entered the wrong house, thinking that she was going to a party. When she entered (the front door was unlocked), she was shot by the homeowner.

Under the “Make My Day” law, the student, who survived the gunshot, was charged with a felony for simply walking into the wrong house. The homeowner was not charged.

If someone walks into your front door without your permission—even if the door was left unlocked or wide open—they have entered unlawfully. But suppose someone walks in the front door thinking it’s the home of a friend, and says, “Whoops! I’m in the wrong house.” If you open a cannon on them, my guess is that the Court will find that the level of force you used is not justified under the circumstances, regardless of the “Make My Day” law. 

Another important question that has come up around this law is where, exactly, is the “Make My Day” law in effect? 

Suppose hypothetically that we’re on Person A’s property, not inside the house, but on the land surrounding the house. Let’s say that Person A is riding a snowmobile when he discovers that Person B has trespassed onto his land. Person A decides to run down Person B, thinking that he can do so freely because of the “Make My Day” law, and he does, breaking Person B’s left leg. 

Is Person A protected by the “Make My Day” law, as he believes he is? 

If you clicked through the link above and reviewed the details of this law, you know that, no, Person A is not necessarily protected because although the incident occurred on his property, it was not inside his dwelling—an important distinction in the details of the law.

And, in this hypothetical scenario, Person A would potentially face severe consequences for attacking Person B.

The “Make My Day” law applies only to the actual physical building that makes up your home. It does not necessarily apply to your land, your business, or any other structures that may exist on your property. And remember that the jury will also take into serious consideration whether the level of force exerted by the homeowner is relatively equal to the amount of danger that person appeared to be in based on the manner in which the intruder enters the home. 

In other words, every case is different and should be carefully considered on an individual basis. If you are dealing with a criminal charge and need legal counsel, let’s talk. Call us at 303-449-1873 to set up a free consultation.