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What are California’s self-defense laws?

Dec 9, 2021 | Uncategorized

Claims of self-defense made by people in California accused of violent crimes are often met with skepticism. Yet those who might have scrutinized such assertions could reasonably find themselves in situations where they feel compelled to act to preserve their own safety (as well as that of their families).

When one finds themselves having to defend their defensive actions, it is important that they understand the extent to which their state allows one to act in self-defense.

“Stand Your Ground” vs. “the Castle Doctrine”

The self-defense laws of a majority of states (California included) find their footings in one of two legal philosophies. The first is “Stand Your Ground”, which essentially removes the duty to retreat from an individual in any situation in which they feel their safety threatened.

“The Castle Doctrine” basically allows for the same exercise of defensive action, yet limits it to scenarios in which one is unlawfully attempting to enter into a person’s home, vehicle or any other location where they are legally entitled to be.

California’s self-defense law

According to Section 198.5 of California’s Penal Code, the state subscribes to the latter philosophy. Indeed, this law says that one may use defensive force (even deadly force) when they have a reasonable fear of suffering death or serious bodily injury (or their loved one’s experiencing the same thing). Authorities presume that this reasonable fear exists when a person attempts to enter into their residence without their consent.

There are, however, certain exceptions to this rule. For example, one cannot act against a peace officer attempting to execute their duties. In addition, when cannot use force against a person attempting to enter a location (even forcefully attempting) where that person is also entitled to be.