Is self defense on my own property a defense for criminal mischief?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Is self defense on my own property a defense for criminal mischief?

I got charged for criminal mischief in defending myself on my own property against girlfriends ex-husband who was told to not come here.

Asked on October 26, 2016 under Criminal Law, Colorado


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

It's a defense IF he actually attacked you--e.g. punched you, shoved you, pulled a knife or gun on you, etc. If he simply wouldn't leave your property and was orally harassing you or making oral threats not backed up by something physical (like pulling a weapon), then it's not self-defense: it's assault (or in this case, criminal mischief). You can't use self defense against trespassing or oral threats without imminent physical threat or an attack.
1) It's not self defense if you provoked or goaded the attack; and
2) It's not self defense if you used more force than was necessary, or continued the fight/using force after he was done fighting.

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