Colorado “Make My Day” Law on Trial

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Last October, Michael Galvin and his family moved into a home they purchased in a Colorado Springs neighborhood. Ten days later, on November 3, 2015, his life changed forever.

That evening, Galvin shot and killed an intruder he caught, with at least one bullet striking Robert Carrigan in the back. Carrigan, who grew up in the same neighborhood, was convicted of burglary in 1996 and 1998, criminal trespass in 1997 and theft and fraud in 1995.

But on the evening of November 3rd, Carrigan was in the detached garage which faced the alley behind the home when he was encountered by Galvin.

The matter was investigated by the Colorado Springs Police Department and the findings were presented to an El Paso County grand jury. On April 20, 2016, the grand jury, in a 10-2 vote, charged Galvin with a single count of negligent homicide, which carries a potential prison term of up to three years. He was nearly indicted for the more serious charge of manslaughter, but the vote of 8-4 was one short of the number needed to indict. Fortunately, the panel unanimously dismissed a potential charge of second-degree murder.

In reaching its conclusion, the grand jury alleged that Galvin failed to provide adequate warning before shooting Carrigan. “The evidence indicates there was not significant time lapse between the verbal warnings and shots fired resulting in Mr. Carrigan’s death,” according to the indictment. The panel found the evidence “does not validate Mr. Galvin’s claim the victim was able to lunge at him” in the garage, according to the indictment.

The grand jury found that Galvin did not take precautions to lessen the “high probability of loss of life,” and the panel cited his “experience, background and training” in concluding that he used excessive force, the indictment shows. It did not elaborate about the nature of his background and training.

“The jury found that he had other reasonable courses of actions available to him throughout the sequence of events that could have mitigated the outcome,” the indictment said.

On Friday, July 15, Galvin entered a plea of not guilty and is currently free on a $2,000 bond while awaiting trial which is set to begin January 9, 2017.

At issue, according to Galvin’s attorney Julia Stancil, is Colorado’s “make my day” law, which offers protections to people who defend themselves from intruders inside their dwellings. Stancil plans to argue that “dwellings” include the detached garage.

If that argument fails, the defense will have to seek justification for Galvin’s actions under the state’s self-defense statutes, claiming that he reasonably believed he had no way out other than to shoot Carrigan.

We reached out to U.S. Law Shield Independent Program Attorney Doug Richards for his take on this case.

“The Make My Day law is an amazing law that protects gun owners in Colorado,” Richards said. “It is a pre-trial motion that provides criminal and civil immunity to the homeowner defending their property. In other words, an attorney files a motion before the jury trial begins and litigates whether the statute applies.”

Richards went on to add, “If the judge grants the defense motion the entire case is dismissed, without the need for a trial. However, if the judge denies the motion, the defendant still has the ability to challenge the allegations at trial with the traditional affirmative defense of self-defense.”

“I believe that Galvin’s attorney has an uphill battle in arguing that the detached garage is part of the “dwelling” – a term defined as “a building which is used, intended to b used, or usually used by a person for habitation,” Richards continued. “Compare CRS 18-1-704.5(2) with CRS 18-1-901(3)(g). It sounds as if she will make factual arguments that Galvin used the garage as an extension of the habitable space of the home, not just a storage area for cars, etc. That is likely going to be her argument.”

“This is a question that comes up at almost every U.S. Law Shield event I’ve spoken at, so the court’s decision will be very interesting to me and Colorado USLS members,” said Richards.

Richards went on to point out, “The outcome of this trial can have far reaching ramifications with regards to the limit of how far the ‘make my day’ law extends in defending one’s home.”

We will continue to follow and report on this case as it progresses.

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