Even those who do not own stun guns know what they are. Stun guns are devices that transfer electrical charges when they touch someone, temporarily immobilizing them. Nonlethal, but very effective when used for self-defense, stun guns can be very dangerous when used for improper or illegal purposes. However, the possession, sale and purchase of stun guns are legal and unregulated in the state of Colorado.
What Is a Stun Gun?
Stun guns look like pistols, but do not shoot bullets. Colorado law defines a stun gun as a "device capable of temporarily immobilizing a person by the infliction of an electrical charge.” This includes various types of stunning devices like compact and portable stun guns, electric shock prods, stun belts, tasers and long-range shock weapons. While stun guns require a short range to stun, tasers shoot darts with an electric charge and so can be effective at a distance.
Are Stun Guns Legal?
It is perfectly legal to buy, sell or own a stun gun in Colorado, where the device does not qualify as a dangerous weapon, deadly weapon or illegal weapon under Colorado state laws. In addition, it is legal and considered appropriate to use a stun gun to repel any kind of physical attack in this state.
Though stun guns are classified as nonlethal, the weapons can cause serious physical harm. For example, if a victim has certain preexisting medical problems like a heart condition, being stunned can exacerbate it.
Background Checks and Concealed Carry
Does an individual require a background check to purchase stun guns in Colorado? They do not. No registration is required either. Although residents of Colorado cannot carry a concealed handgun without a carrying concealed weapon permit, stun guns can be concealed and carried without a permit. Stun guns are specifically permitted on Colorado campuses as concealed protection devices.
Conflicting Local Laws
Generally, when local regulations conflict with state laws in Colorado, the state law takes precedence. This appears also to be the case for stun gun laws. However, there are counties and cities in Colorado where local stun gun ordinances appear to differ from the state laws. These may include:
- Larimer County.
Anyone living or traveling in these parts of Colorado should check the local government ordinances before buying, selling or possessing a stun gun for self-defense purposes.
Buying a Stun Gun
An individual who wants to buy a stun gun does not need to apply for any type of license in Colorado, unlike for other types of guns. On the other hand, the state does impose a few restrictions.
Stun gun ownership is limited to those 18 years old or older. The weapons cannot be sold to someone under 18 years old, and it is illegal for a minor to possess one. That is also the case for individuals who are fugitives from justice, drug users, drug addicts and illegal aliens. These individuals are prohibited from owning or possessing a stun gun in Colorado. Likewise, convicted felons cannot own stun guns.
The responsibility for determining whether the purchase of a stun gun is permitted falls to the buyer. The seller cannot be held responsible should the buyer be found to be breaking the law.
Criminal Charges for Stun Guns
Any felon found with a stun gun can be charged in Colorado with unlawful possession of a weapon by a previous offender under Colorado Revised Statutes Section 18-12-108. This offense is charged as a Class 6 felony and can be punished by up to 18 months in Colorado state prison and fines of up to $100,000.
What happens if someone uses a stun gun during the commission of a crime in Colorado? It is easy to imagine a stun gun being used in an assault, burglary or even kidnapping. If this occurs, the offender will face additional charges under CRS Section 18-12-106.5 for use of the weapon. This felony is in addition to charges for the commission of a criminal offense and can be punished by up to three years in prison (with two years mandatory parole), and/or a fine of at least $1,000 and up to $100,000.
Defenses to Criminal Charges for Use of a Stun Gun
As described above, it is illegal in Colorado to use a stun gun, but only if it is used to commit a crime. It is a good defense to a criminal charge if the defendant can establish that they did not commit the crime charged or they did not use the stun gun to commit the crime. This depends on corroborating evidence like video tape or witness testimony.
An accused can also argue that the device they used did not meet the definition of a stun gun. They might also claim that they were acting in legal self-defense or defense of someone else. In Colorado, claiming self-defense is an affirmative defense under the law. That means that the accused admits to having used the stun gun but claims that they were justified in doing so. At this point, the prosecution has the burden of providing that the defendant was not acting in reasonable self-defense.
Sealing a Stun Gun Record
Anyone charged with using a stun gun to carry out a crime in Colorado will prefer not to have this crime on their record. Is it possible to get the charge sealed? In Colorado, it is possible for the individual to seal the charge from their record in two instances.
First, if the charge is dismissed, the individual can immediately ask the court to seal the charges. If the charge is not dismissed, they must wait until three years from the date that the case ends to petition the court for a record seal.
Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.