If you have been charged with assault or another violent crime in California, there is a possibility that you may be acquitted of this charge if you are able to prove that you were acting in defense of yourself, your home, or another person. However, it is important to realize that there are specific circumstances under which self-defense is considered to be a reasonable response to a threat. Here are the basics of self-defense in California criminal courts.
First, California is not one of the states that has a standard “stand your ground” law, which is a statute that removes a person's duty to retreat from a threat before taking action. Still, California does have a “Castle Doctrine” (PC Section 198.5), which is similar to “stand your ground” laws. Under CA Penal Code 198.5, individuals may use deadly force with no duty to retreat within your own residence if you have “a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily injury to self, family, or a member of the household.” To use this defense, the intruder must have acted unlawfully by entering your home and you or other members of the household must not have provoked that intruder in any way.
Furthermore, although California is not technically a “stand your ground” state, it is possible to employ a “stand your ground” defense in some cases when actions may be considered justifiable homicide. According to the jury instructions outlined in CALCRIM #505 and #506, even if you are outside of your “castle” you may not be found guilty of murder, manslaughter, or attempted murder if you reasonably believe that you or someone else is in imminent danger of being killed or suffering great bodily harm. However, it is important to note that individuals who seek to use this defense must be truly acting in defense (not striking first), and are only entitled to use the minimum amount of force deemed reasonable to neutralize a threat. Under these statutes, the People “have the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the [attempted] killing was not justified. If the People have not met this burden, [the court] must find the defendant not guilty.”
If you have been accused of a violent crime such as assault, battery, assault with a deadly weapon, attempted murder, or murder in the state of California, the potential consequences of these charges are grave. While it is possible that you were truly acting in self-defense, it is vitally important that you present your case in such a manner that a jury of your peers agrees that your actions were justified. Our criminal defense lawyers in the Los Angeles area have extensive experience in defending the rights of clients accused of violent crimes, and we can help you build a strong case as you pursue justice. To learn more about your rights and how we can protect them, please contact us for a consultation with a criminal defense attorney you can trust.