Welcome to a world where the legal system treats you differently depending upon where you draw your weapon. This difference comes from the legal protections of the Castle Doctrine.
What is the Castle Doctrine?
Traditionally, the “Castle Doctrine” refers to the right of a person, while in their own home, to use deadly force in self-defense without first having to attempt to retreat. While Colorado law generally does not require retreat before acting in self-defense (even outside the home), Colorado has adopted a statutory form of the Castle Doctrine that allows a person to use any degree of force against a person “when that other person has made an unlawful entry into the dwelling, and when the occupant has a reasonable belief that such other person has committed a crime in the dwelling in addition to the uninvited entry, or is committing or intends to commit a crime against a person or property in addition to the uninvited entry, and when the occupant reasonably believes that such other person might use any physical force, no matter how slight, against any occupant” (found in C.R.S. 18-1-704.5).
Defining a Dwelling?
The “dwelling” (that is, the “castle”) is not defined in the statute, but has been interpreted broadly to mean any space “used by persons for habitation.” People v. Alaniz, 409 P.3d 508 (Colo. App. 2016) (collecting cases). The “dwelling” can be an attached garage, a hospital room, or a hotel room. It was even interpreted to include a jail cell before the legislature stepped in and amended the defense to exclude “any place of habitation in a detention facility” (found in C.R.S. 18-1-704.5(5)).
In light of these interpretations, a vacation rental, hotel, or motel room would likely be deemed a dwelling by virtue of being “a place where a person sleeps.” A person who is out running errands, however, would not be deemed to be in a dwelling (because they are presumably running errands out and about in public). In that case, the normal laws of defense of persons and property, rather than the Castle Doctrine, would apply.
If you have any questions regarding what constitutes a “castle” in Colorado, call U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.