How Does California Define Self-Defense?
Self-defense denotes the act of utilizing force as a means to safeguard oneself from potential harm or peril. By invoking self-defense as a justification for your actions, you essentially acknowledge that the behavior in question would typically be deemed unlawful. This is commonly referred to as an assertion of defense. You acknowledge having committed an offense but provide justification based on self-defense.
To clarify, your argument is grounded on the premise that if you abstained from using force or aggression, you or another individual would have incurred some harm.
The act of defending oneself can serve as a legally acceptable justification for various offenses that take place in Los Angeles:
California Laws on Self-defense
Law on self-defense in CaliforniaThe California Penal Code does not contain any language defining a person’s ability to defend herself. However, a defendant can raise the defense in a criminal case according to the state’s jury instructions. A jury may conclude that using violence was justified in some situations after considering all the pertinent evidence and testimony.
Section 505 of California’s Criminal Jury Instructions sets forth what a defendant must prove to assert self-defense properly. If the defendant can demonstrate the following, they will be found not guilty of a violent crime and will be deemed to have acted in self-defense:
- They had a good reason to suspect that they or another person was about to suffer an injury/ imminent danger;
- They had a solid basis for thinking that the threat called for the imminent use of force, and
- They only employed the level of force deemed reasonably necessary to avoid that threat.
CALCRIM #506. Killing someone in self-defense is allowed if they are trying to harm you or your property.
If someone is in their own home and they hurt or kill someone to protect themselves, they might not be guilty of murder or manslaughter. This is what Criminal Jury Instruction #506 says.
The person accused of a crime should have had a good reason to believe they were protecting their home against someone trying to commit a terrible crime like robbery, maiming, or rape. They can also defend themselves if they think the person entering their house is trying to hurt them.
The accused person should have thought that using deadly force to protect themselves was required and that they were in immediate danger. They should only have used the necessary amount of force to defend themselves.
According to this rule, you don’t have to run away if attacked. The person on trial can protect themselves and chase after the person who hurt them until they are safe from further harm.
Thinking that someone might hurt you in the future is not a good reason to kill or try to kill them.
Stand Your Ground Laws
In California, you are entitled to protect yourself or others by using force if you are in harm or danger, and you can stand your ground while doing so according to self-defense laws.
In California, a defendant can defend themselves using force when necessary to protect themselves until the danger of injury, death, or any other crime is over. The defendant has the right to stand their ground. Even if withdrawing could have ensured safety, this still stands true. The Castle Doctrine may cover your case if an incident, such as an assault, occurred on your property.
What does Imperfect Self-Defense Mean?
Imperfect self-defense means that someone thought they were in danger or needed to use force to protect themselves, but their beliefs were not entirely reasonable. The person accused did what they believed was right based on their feelings, but a sensible person would not have felt threatened or behaved similarly in that situation.
Sometimes, a person accused of a crime can say they acted in self-defense, but not ideally, to try to get a less severe charge. Here’s an example: If someone is accused of murder, they could be found guilty of a lesser charge called voluntary manslaughter. In that case, they would get a shorter prison sentence, no more than 11 years.
What does the Castle Doctrine Mean?
In California, you don’t have to flee to defend yourself if someone breaks into your property. You can confront them and order them to go.
According to the Castle Doctrine, if someone breaks into your home and threatens you, you are entitled to use lethal force. The law argues that you are under threat if someone breaks into your house.
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Seppi Esfandi is an Expert Attorney who has over 21 years of practice defending a variety of cases.