Understanding California’s self-defense law

On Behalf of | Mar 18, 2020 | Criminal Defense

Claims of self-defense made by people accused of committing violent crimes in California are often met with skepticism. At the same time, you can likely understand that there are indeed situations where someone may feel as though their safety has been threatened (especially if you have faced such a scenario yourself). The question then becomes, “When is the use of force in self-defense actually justified?”

Many people have come to members of our team here at Ron Cordova Attorney-at-Law asking this very question. While complexities may abound regarding self-defense laws, the actual state statute defining it is quite clear. 

Stand your ground

A legal principle exists known as “stand your ground,” which basically states that you have no duty to retreat in situations where you feel threatened. Many states have adopted stand your ground laws; California, however, is not one of them.

Our state’s self-defense statute (as described in Section 198.5 of the state’s Penal Code) says that you are justified in using force against one who has entered your home if you have reason to believe that the person intends to cause serious bodily to either you or a member of your household. Such a fear is presumed when the person against whom you act enters your home unlawfully. This right to defend yourself may also extend to your workplace or other areas of real property that you own. 

The castle doctrine 

California’s law falls more in line with “the castle doctrine,” which implies that your home is your castle, and while within it, you have a right to defend it and its occupants. The difference between the castle doctrine and stand your ground laws is that scenarios involving the latter may extend to situations outside of your home or office. 

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