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Is California a “Stand Your Ground” State?

By Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney on February 20, 2023

In the 1980s, a group of states including Georgia, Florida, Kansas, and Idaho passed laws that were commonly referred to as “make my day” laws. Named after a line from the Dirty Harry movies, these laws explicitly state that a person who is not engaging in unlawful activity has the right to “stand your ground” and defend themselves by using deadly force against a violent attacker.

On the other hand, states such as Hawaii, Maryland, Iowa, and Massachusetts have “duty to retreat” laws that require an individual to attempt to escape from imminent danger if possible before resorting to physical force to defend yourself.

California sits in between these two groups of states. Although there is no duty to retreat, the law does not explicitly affirm the right of gun owners to use deadly force when attacked. But under California’s Castle Doctrine, people in their homes have the right to defend themselves using deadly force against violent intruders.

Outside the home, a person has the right to use violent force to defend themselves when they believe it’s necessary to prevent serious imminent bodily harm.

What Is the Castle Doctrine?

According to PC 198.5, if someone enters your home and you reasonably believe that person is an imminent threat, you have a right to defend yourself using the amount of force necessary to prevent harm to the people inside your home. This is in accordance with the English common law principle known as the Castle Doctrine.

If you feel threatened by an intruder who refuses to leave your home, you are not required to retreat. You are allowed to repel a violent intruder when the following conditions apply:

  • You are protecting yourself, your family, or your home.
  • The danger is imminent, which means right now and not in the future.
  • The attacker enters in a violent manner to commit violence against someone inside.
  • You reasonably believe someone inside the house is under imminent threat of serious bodily harm.
  • You do not use more force than necessary.

Defending Yourself Outside the Home

The Castle doctrine does not extend beyond your home. But the same principles apply. If you use violent force to defend yourself outside the home, you will need to convince prosecutors or a jury that:

  • The other person was the initial aggressor.
  • You believed force was necessary to defend yourself.
  • You or someone else was in imminent danger of serious bodily harm.
  • You used the necessary amount of force required.

It’s best to avoid violence when possible. But if you shoot someone who is threatening to harm you or somebody else, your attorney will argue that your actions were justified.

There are circumstances when your legal team will choose to use an affirmative defense. This means that the evidence presented in court negates criminal liability. Your criminal defense attorney will argue that you are not criminally liable for harming a person if you reasonably believed your actions were necessary to prevent the following types of consequences:

  • Being killed
  • Suffering great bodily injury
  • Being raped
  • Being maimed
  • Getting robbed

Did You Use Deadly Force to Defend Yourself?

You should be safe inside your own home and you have the right to defend yourself against a violent attacker. At Werksman Jackson & Quinn LLP, our nationally acclaimed criminal defense attorneys will find the best legal strategy to get all charges against you dismissed.

Call (213) 688-0460 to schedule a case review today.

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Posted in: Criminal Defense