Questions and Answers about Defenses in Non-Traffic Municipal Court Cases
This document provides general information and is not intended to be legal advice. If you have any questions about what the city must prove in order to obtain a conviction or about what defenses may be available to you, please address those questions to the judge in open court.
Q. What is a “strict liability” offense?
A. A strict liability offense does not require the city to prove the defendant had a “culpable mental state” in order to obtain a conviction. That is, the city need not prove the defendant acted intentionally, knowingly, recklessly or negligently; the city must only prove that the defendant committed a prohibited act (or failed to perform a required act). Put simply, a defendant can be found guilty of a strict liability offense even if he or she did not intend to commit the offense.
Q. What types of offenses are strict liability offenses?
A. Many traffic violations are strict liability offenses. Similarly, many code violations pertaining to land-use, zoning, trash, occupancy, weeds, and keeping sidewalks free of snow are also strict liability offenses.
Q. How can I tell whether the offense I am charged with is a strict liability offense?
A. The best way is to read the ordinance. Unless the ordinance requires the city to prove you acted intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or negligently, it is probably a strict liability offense. If you are not sure, you should ask the judge in open court.
Q. May a landlord be held liable for violations on the landlord’s property resulting from the acts or omissions of the landlord’s tenants?
A. Yes, if the offense is a strict liability offense. Section 9-10-1(f) of the Boulder Revised Code (B.R.C.) provides that the owner, tenant, and occupant of a structure or land and the agents of each of them are jointly and severally liable for any violation of Boulder’s land use regulations with respect to that structure or land.
Q. That does not seem fair. What is the rationale for that?
A. The courts have recognized that in regulating public health and safety there are sound public policy reasons for classifying certain offenses as strict liability offenses. In the case of landlords and tenants, for example, holding landlords strictly liable for violations on their property resulting from the acts or omissions of their tenants, gives landlords an incentive to supervise their tenants.
Q. Is self-defense a defense to a charge of 3rd degree assault or brawling.
A. It could be; however, your definition of self-defense may be different than the legal definition. Please review Section 5-2-17, B.R.C. Note that self-defense is not a defense if two people enter into a fight by mutual agreement.
Q. Is self-defense a defense to a charge of harassment?
A. No. Harassment is a specific intent crime. If you were acting in self-defense, then by definition you did not intend to harass, annoy, or alarm the other person.
Q. Is intoxication a defense?
A. Generally, voluntary intoxication is not a defense. See, Section 5-2-24, B.R.C.
Note: Other defenses that may be available in some cases are set forth in Title 5, Chapter 2, of the Boulder Revised Code. See sections 5-2-12 through 5-2-25, B.R.C.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 July 2012 07:36