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    What is Legal Self Defense Under California Law?

    Wrongful Death Attorney Providing Civil Rights and Criminal Law Examples.

  • Michael Ehline, Skateboard Death lawyer

    What is Legal Self Defense Under California Law?

    Legal Support for Victims Across California

Posted on Civil Rights Law Blog / Blog / What is Legal Self Defense Under California Law?

By Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney, Michael P. Ehline Esq.

Find answers to all your questions.

In California, the self-defense statutes state that you have the right to defend yourself, a family member, and even another person from an aggressor. You have zero duty to retreat either inside or outside of your home (castle). There is no “stand-your-ground” law that has so far passed legislative enactment in California.

Reasonable Force Is The Self Defense Theme

However, the existing legal norms provide a degree of protection for individuals who are defending themselves only under specific conditions. (Force used must be reasonably necessary to defend against something considered imminent.

As an aside, as we have seen during the billion-dollar-plus property damage caused during the recent BLM-inspired riots and the past Rodney King riots, POLICE HAVE ZERO DUTY TO PROTECT YOU! And Kenosha police certainly were not defending businesses during the Kenosha, Wisconsin riots that made AR15 toting Kyle Rittenhouse a public figure.

“Stand Your Ground” Laws, What Are They?

Under “stand-your-ground” laws in many states, people have the right to defend themselves or others if they reasonably believe there is a genuine risk of death or bodily harm.

To prevent serious danger, significant physical damage, or death, deadly force is regarded under California law as acceptable. Instead of retreating, a person has the liberty to stand their ground and fight back. Some states, including California, allow the victim to pursue an attacker to force them out of the danger zone and protect others.

What Is California’s Castle Doctrine?

California recognizes additional presumptions of self-defense when defending your home under the Castle doctrine. In a way, imminent harm is presumed by the dastardly act of unlawful and forcible entry.

A claim of self-defense is always stronger when a reasonable person is faced with a threatening situation at their residence. If the victim has engaged and stopped their attacker with reasonable force intended to stop a successful home invasion, the defense of self-defense applies.

Your Home is Your “Castle”

Castle is a legal self-defense principle recognizing a resident’s right to use deadly force inside the protected, non-public areas of their home or other dwellings, even a motel room.

In a nutshell, when an intruder unlawfully forces entry into your residence, you are entitled to use reasonable force to stop your attackers in self-defense. As long as you have credible fear or apprehension, you’re going to die. You can plead self-defense with a reputable presumption you or someone near you was in imminent danger.

Here is the law:

“Anyone using force likely to cause death or great bodily injury within their residence is presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily injury to self, family.” (See California Penal Code Section 198.5)

If you kill your attackers inside or outside a dwelling, you can still plead self-defense in certain situations. But your freedom to defend exterior portions of a pad with a gun when a person forcibly enters those areas remains somewhat consulted and difficult.

Other People Have Legal Rights To Enter Public Parts of Your Property

The difference with a yard or driveway threat is, you are only entitled to a reputable presumption you acted in self-defense inside a non-public area inside your residence. This is because even though these areas are technically private property, there is an easement over public regions to deliver packages. (U.S. Postal Service, Amazon Prime, FedEx, DHL, etc.)

Also, meter maids and police have the right to enter these areas without a warrant to perform their official duties. So how does the old school, pro-self-defense American defend their yard, driveway, or sidewalk under the law?

Non-Public Area of California Residence Defined

The bottom line is a knowledgeable assailant can stalk you to determine where you live. The assailant may confront you while you’re walking home and chase you into your yard. Let’s say, for example, your husband runs outside into the unfenced driveway with his Taran Tactical (John Wick) Glock 21 loaded with hollow points.

The husband is technically in violation of openly carrying a firearm in a public place unless he can prove he was acting in defense of others, or someone else was in imminent danger. (in the above example, the husband would be protecting the life of his spouse).

Typically, a non-public area is not considered your residence for purposes of California self-defense with gun laws at least. (See also California Penal Code Section 25850) Section of Part 6 of the Penal Code is not instructive to define a public place either.

California Penal Code Section 17040 states: “As used in Chapter 6 (commencing with Section 26350) of Division 5 of Title 4, “public place” has the same meaning as in Section 25850.”

It is instructive for you and your criminal defense attorney to look at other laws defining public places in California to help understand self-defense in the context of a private domicile.

Penal Code 20170 defines a public place in the context of imitation firearms, stating:

“(a) No person may openly display or expose any imitation firearm in a public place.

(b) As used in this section, “public place” means an area open to the public and includes any of the following:
(1) A street.
(2) A sidewalk.
(3) A bridge.
(4) An alley.
(5) A plaza.
(6) A park.
(7) A driveway.
(8) A front yard.
(9) A parking lot.
(10) An automobile, whether moving or not.
(11) A building open to the general public, including one that serves food or drink, or provides entertainment.
(12) A doorway or entrance to a building or dwelling.
(13) A public school.
(14) A public or private college or university.”

In the case of prostitution, a “public place” is a street or other public area.

Penal Code Section 653.20. “(b) “Public place” means an area open to the public, or an alley, plaza, park, driveway, or parking lot, or an automobile, whether moving or not, or a building open to the general public, including one which serves food or drink, or provides entertainment, or the doorways and entrances to a building or dwelling, or the grounds enclosing a building or dwelling.”

To be safe, the phrase “public place” is a driveway or your yard unless it’s fenced in. Even then, try opening carrying a gun in your fenced-in front yard and expected to be arrested for “brandishing” a firearm.

In summary, assume an unfenced sidewalk, parking lot, or area in front of your business or home is a public place for purposes of invoking the Castle Doctrine’s presumption of self-defense.

The Reasonable Person Is Attacked In A Private Place, Now What?

In the instance of a break-in, the resident may only use deadly force if they have a genuine concern (does not have to be in fear but might be afraid) that they or someone in their household will suffer serious bodily injury or death. This is called the “imminent danger” rule.

Second, the homeowner, renter, or even hotel room occupant must have a reasonable basis for believing a criminal unlawfully and forcefully provocatively entered their dwelling.

The imminent hazard must be addressed right away, according to California case law. (See People v. Humphrey (1996) 13 Cal.4th 1073).

Do California Self Defense Laws Allow Force to Defend Property?

Kind of. Aside from self-defense, under California law, the owner or person in charge of personal property is permitted to use any “reasonable force” necessary to protect their equipment from bodily harm. Furthermore, a person may use defensive force to safeguard their family member’s or guests’ belongings from theft or damage.

However, most retail stores, fearful of being charged by pro victim prosecutors, simply allow criminals to snatch and grab. San Francisco has gotten so bad. Many merchants are relocating to more pro-gun, pro victims states like Texas, Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico.

Reasonable Force?

A legitimate reason for using such force is to defend oneself or one’s property from unlawful damage. The appropriate level of force a reasonable person would believe is necessary to safeguard property from harm is known as “reasonable force.”

If the immediate use of force is required, such as when a female is unlawfully touched by a suspected rapist, who believed she’d be raped, she could claim self-defense when appropriate for the circumstances. But never rely on defense laws. Elected prosecutors in

California is actively releasing hardened criminals while vigorously prosecuting and filing unmeritorious cases anytime a gun is used in self-defense. If you want to be free from a progressive, anti-gun prosecutor, flee the state while you still can.

Can I Use Deadly Force To Defend My Property?

The use of deadly force to protect property is justified in the following situations:

  • To prevent someone from entering your home or business illegally in order to commit a felony by either force or surprise.
  • To defend a house or property from an invader who is attempting to gain entry violently with the goal of injuring someone inside.

Can Deadly Force Be Used to Defend Yourself in Private and In Public?

Yes. California remains a “Stand Your Ground” as well as a “Castle Doctrine” state. Stand Your Ground refers to the legal principle that you have no duty to retreat if you wish to use self-defense.

In California, a person’s right to use deadly force or engage in violent action to protect oneself or others from harm is recognized as an affirmative defense to murder and voluntary manslaughter charges. This is the bedrock of self-defense law.

A person is considered to have acted and lawful self-defense if they reasonably believed that:

  • They are in imminent danger of suffering significant bodily injury or being killed.
  • The immediate use of deadly force was required to defend themselves against the danger.
  • The amount of force used was reasonably necessary to protect against that danger.

A real emergency (imminent danger) is defined as an existing and immediate danger. It may not be a prospect or even a danger that will occur shortly. Imminent risk must be addressed immediately — for example, having a gun put to your head, such as occurred to Kyle Rittenhouse as he was being chased by several violent felon BLM rioters. As he tried to escape, he was struck in the head from behind with a skateboard by a recently released, violent felon.

Significant bodily injury refers to an injury that is severe or substantial enough to cause significant or significant damage. The Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions (CALCRIM) are provided by courts to criminal juries when a self-defense case comes before the court.

Here are some relevant CALCRIM sections related to great bodily harm when pleading self-defense as a justification for homicide used presently in the California criminal system.

CALCRIM No. 505. Justifiable Homicide in Self Defense or Defense of Another

In a lawful situation, a person who is charged with murder must be acquitted if they acted in good faith to defend themselves or another individual from the unlawful force. In the instance that the threatened harm was only verbal, as long as it was genuine and credible, no criminal jury instruction No. 505 indicates that someone would not be convicted of murder if they used deadly force.

The defendant should have had a reasonable belief that someone was at the property or they were in: “imminent danger of being killed or suffering great bodily injury.”

The defendant must also have believed that deadly force was required to prevent death or great bodily harm and that the amount of force used was no more than was necessary to avert danger when a threat exists.

According to the court, a feeling that they may be harmed in the future is insufficient to justify murder or attempted murder. In cases of mutual combat, you must show you withdrew from the right but were re-engaged and in imminent threat for your specific circumstances if you stop fighting.

CALCRIM No. 506. Justifiable Homicide in Defending Against Harm to Person Within Home or On Property

A defendant should not be convicted of murder or manslaughter if the killing or attempted killing happened in their own home and they had no intent to harm someone else, according to Criminal Jury Instruction No. 506.

As discussed previously, the defendant should have a reasonable belief they were defending their home against someone attempting to commit a “forcible and atrocious crime” (rape, sodomy, maiming, or robbery) or that the individual entering the house was attempting to present an imminent danger, triggering a self-defense scenario. Since the criminal was an immediate or present threat, you may act in self-defense.

The defendant must have believed that deadly force was necessary, that they were in imminent danger, and that the amount of force used was only appropriate to defend themselves.

The accused party is not required to withdraw, according to this jury instruction. The defendant has the right to defend themselves and others and, if necessary, pursue their attacker until the moment when bodily harm or death is no longer a possibility.

This applies even when you were the initial aggressor and wished to disengage from mutual combat but were forced to defend against that danger presented after you retreated. The idea is you made a reasonable, good-faith effort to disengage from the battle, but the threat exists unless the other person continues to punch and kick you, for example.

But no case exists in a vacuum. You’ll need evidence. That’s why it’s so important to consult with a member of the criminal bar. That way, they can have experts and investigators gather corroborating evidence, especially when a stab wound or shooting is being punished for political points by an overzealous, even Marxist leaning, prosecutor who thinks you should “take your beating.” (Kyle Rittenhouse prosecutor).

Fear of Future Harm is Never An Excuse to Kill or Shoot

Like instruction No. 505, the belief in future harm is not considered sufficient to justify murder or attempted murder.

Arguments For and Against No Retreat Self Defense Laws

Imminent danger self-defense may sound like common sense. But many believe the progressive left wants to abolish the police and curtail our rights to defend our women and children.

Republicans argue that because gun laws regulating self-defense are relatively few and foreign to the United States until the pre-1980’s, California remains a hodgepodge of statutes. Some older laws and stare decisis honor the traditional right of self-defense.

But many republicans fleeing this single-party state believe more progressive “woke” laws are coming, or as is normal, the mayor will order police to stand down when a violent crime is threatening you, your real or personal property.

Progressives argue that the rights of violent criminal felons are sacrosanct, and they should all be immediately registered to vote and given public housing assistance to live in a city near you or with you. Progressives also argue that any damage done by BLM rioters is a healthy public expression. Besides, the insurance company will cover any property damage.

Republicans counter that there is no insurance coverage in riot zones. Even if there were, many businesses could not afford to pay their insurance deductibles and increased premiums for being in a high-risk zip code. We all agree that defining what a public place is for the Castle Doctrine is unsettled self-defense law.

What Should You Do Now?

Are you facing criminal charges, suing for wrongful death, or being sued for defending against violent crimes? We know it’s hard not to think about everything you could lose. But you have control over your self-defense rights – and at Ehline Law, we’ll do everything in our power to protect your rights inside the civil and criminal justice system.

What Makes Us Different As Lawyers?

California law requires attorneys to be well trained. But we go further. We are highly skilled legal representatives. We will make the correct argument to the judge, based upon your similar situation in appellate and established U.S. Supreme Court cases discussing violence and acting in self-defense to prevent harm or imminent death.

We have successfully defended many clients in Los Angeles, central and Southern California. We have decades of combined experienceCalifornia’sia’s top personal injury litigators.

We will fight on your behalf and assert self-defense was your only option in both deadly force and non-deadly force cases. Even if you were the initial aggressor, you might still have a case. If you are in need of legal advice, Ehline Law Firm can assist you.

It’s Not What You Think In Determining What Force Was Reasonable

Even if you think you used more force than necessary under state law, it’s important to see if you legally acted to defend real or imminent dangers when a forcible entry occurred. In other words, you were suddenly attacked, you’re not an expert like a Navy SEAL. You may have acted reasonably by engaging the attacker and resorting to what you think was excessive violence today. If someone raised their hand in violence to you or someone you love, the concept of drawn-out thought is out the window.

Contact Civil Rights Self Defense Attorneys Today

You can’t compare a life or death situation with the one you have to ponder as to what’s proportionate or not. (If they threaten your life, you are excused from some norms if the jury believes what you did generally made sense) Either way. we’ll take a dedicated stand on your behalf to exonerate you from the very moment you hire us.

For more information, contact us right away by dialing (213) 596-9642. Additionally, you can schedule a free consultation using our convenient only contact form to discuss forming an attorney-client relationship 24 hours a day, seven days per week, to discuss your legal issue. Tell us your story in confidence today.

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