CO 18-1-407. Affirmative defense.

CO 18-1-407. Affirmative defense.

State: Colorado

Colorado Revised (C.R.S.) (2016)

Title 18. Criminal Code



18-1-407. Affirmative defense.

(1) “Affirmative defense” means that unless the state’s evidence raises the issue involving the alleged defense, the defendant, to raise the issue, shall present some credible evidence on that issue.

(2) If the issue involved in an affirmative defense is raised, then the guilt of the defendant must be established beyond a reasonable doubt as to that issue as well as all other elements of the offense.

HISTORY: Source: L. 71: R&RE, p. 400, § 1. C.R.S. 1963: § 40-1-507.

Cross references: For the affirmative defense of impaired mental condition, see § § 16-8-103.5 and 18-1-803; for other provisions concerning affirmative defenses generally, see § § 18-1-710 and 18-1-805; for affirmative defenses to particular crimes, see specific criminal provisions in articles 2 through 15 of this title.


Law reviews. For article, “Homicides Under the Colorado Criminal Code”, see 49 Den. L. J. 137 (1972). For article, “Mens Rea and the Colorado Criminal Code”, see 52 U. Colo. L. Rev. 167 (1981). For article, “Choice of Evils in Colorado”, see 18 Colo. Law. 1117 (1989). For article, “Self-Defense in Colorado”, see 24 Colo. Law. 2717 (1995).

Choice of evils is affirmative defense covered by this section. People v. Strock, 42 Colo. App. 404, 600 P.2d 91 (1979), rev’d on other grounds, 623 P.2d 42 (Colo. 1981); People v. Brandyberry, 812 P.2d 674 (Colo. App. 1990).

As is impaired mental condition. The issue of responsibility due to an impaired mental condition is an affirmative defense. People v. Ledman, 622 P.2d 534 (Colo. 1981).

Duress is affirmative defense. Bailey v. People, 630 P.2d 1062 (Colo. 1981).

Justification is recognized as an affirmative defense to the charge of speeding but the defendant must present credible evidence as to the specific threat of injury and the lack of a reasonable alternative other than commission of the offense. People v. Dover, 790 P.2d 834 (Colo. 1990).

Heat of passion is affirmative defense. People v. Harris, 797 P.2d 816 (Colo. App. 1990).

The defense of alibi is not an affirmative defense and therefore no special instructions are necessary to inform the jury of the prosecution’s burden to prove a defendant alleged to have committed an offense did commit that offense. People v. Huckleberry, 768 P.2d 1235 (Colo. 1989).

Because the defendant’s tendered instruction improperly suggested that alibi was an affirmative defense, the trial court properly refused to give the tendered instruction based on People v. Huckleberry, 768 P.2d 1235 (Colo. 1989); however, the question of whether the trial court properly refused the instruction does not resolve the issue of whether the trial court erred in failing to provide a theory of the case instruction. People v. Nunez, 841 P.2d 261 (Colo. 1992).

Court, not jury, must determine whether affirmative defense is raised. People v. Fincham, 799 P.2d 419 (Colo. App. 1990).

When an exception is included in a statutory section defining the elements of the offense, it is usually the burden of the prosecution to prove the exception does not apply. However, when an exception is found in a separate clause or is clearly disconnected from the definition of the offense, it is the defendant’s burden to claim it as an affirmative defense. People v. Reed, 932 P.2d 842 (Colo. App. 1996).

When an affirmative defense is raised by the defendant, the prosecution must prove each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt in addition to disproving beyond a reasonable doubt the affirmative defense. People v. Fincham, 799 P.2d 419 (Colo. App. 1990); Vega v. People, 893 P.2d 107 (Colo. 1995).

Prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt an exception to self-defense for the jury to reject a defendant’s claim of self-defense on that basis. People v. Castillo, 2014 COA 140M, — P.3d –.

Jury instruction which is in conflict with the legislative intent of this section should not be used. People v. Rex, 689 P.2d 669 (Colo. App. 1984).

Instructions containing erroneous statements of law which improperly relegated to the jury the function of determining whether an affirmative defense was an issue in a case and which had the effect of relieving the prosecution of its burden of proof were at odds with standard jury instructions on affirmative defenses. Lybarger v. People, 807 P.2d 570 (Colo. 1991).

Insanity is an affirmative defense to a crime. Once any credible evidence of insanity is introduced the prosecution bears the burden of proving the defendant’s sanity beyond a reasonable doubt. People v. Serravo, 823 P.2d 128 (Colo. 1992).

By the plain meaning of subsection (2), only when some credible evidence supports an affirmative defense is the prosecution required to disprove it as though it were another element of the defense. In the absence of express statutory language to the contrary, the threshold determination as to whether some credible evidence exists to support an affirmative defense is a matter of law for the court to decide. People v. Hill, 934 P.2d 821 (Colo. 1997).

Under subsection (2), a defendant has not “raised the issue” of the affirmative defense of insanity, in the sense that it has become an issue for consideration by the factfinder, until the court determines credible evidence on that issue has been presented. People v. Hill, 934 P.2d 821 (Colo. 1997).

Lawful possession of marihuana under § 18-18-406 (10) is an affirmative defense to charges of unlawful possession with intent to distribute marihuana and unlawful possession of eight or more ounces of marihuana. The provision provides a legal justification to what would otherwise be criminally culpable behavior. People v. Reed, 932 P.2d 842 (Colo. App. 1996).

To present an affirmative defense for abandonment to the jury, defendant must present “some credible evidence” on the issue of the claimed defense. It is not necessarily the case, however, that the defense of abandonment is not available once defendant has injured the victim. O’Shaughnessy v. People, 2012 CO 9, 269 P.3d 1233.

Applied in People v. Villa, 43 Colo. App. 284, 605 P.2d 481 (1979); People v. Taggart, 621 P.2d 1375 (Colo. 1981)(justified physical force for disciplinary purposes as affirmative defense in child abuse prosecution); People v. Traubert, 625 P.2d 991 (Colo. 1981)(renunciation and abandonment as affirmative defense in prosecution for attempted second degree burglary); People v. Smith, 623 P.2d 404 (Colo. 1981); People v. Gallegos, 628 P.2d 999 (Colo. 1981); People v. Andrews, 632 P.2d 1012 (Colo. 1981); Hendershott v. People, 653 P.2d 385 (Colo. 1982), cert. denied, 459 U.S. 1225, 103 S. Ct. 1232, 75 L. Ed. 2d 466 (1983); People v. Quintana, 665 P.2d 605 (Colo. 1983); People v. Turner, 680 P.2d 1290 (Colo. App. 1983); People v. Huckleberry, 738 P.2d 17 (Colo. App. 1986).

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