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Understanding self-defense laws in California

Dec 20, 2022 | Violent Crimes

Violent actions of self-defense often end up met with scrutiny in the eye of the public. However, situations do genuinely exist in which a person believes it is necessary to take physical action to protect their loved ones or their own life.

When taking physical defensive action, it is important to know what the state laws legally allow for.

The Castle Doctrine

Section 198.5 of California’s Penal Code discusses self-defense laws in the state. Most self-defense laws base on two primary legal philosophies. These are “The Castle Doctrine” and “Stand Your Ground”.

The Castle Doctrine allows for decisive physical action in defense of a person. It specifically applies to situations where a person attempts to unlawfully enter into another person’s house, vehicle or any other location where the intended target has a legal right to be.

Stand Your Ground

The “Stand Your Ground” philosophy refers to any situation where a person feels physically threatened. It essentially removes that person’s duty to retreat.

California leans on The Castle Doctrine most heavily. Under law, a person can use excessive or even deadly force if they have a genuine fear of serious bodily harm or death, or if their loved ones suffer from the same risks.

Reasonable fear exists if a person attempts to illegally enter another person’s home (or other aforementioned properties), and law enforcement legally assumes as much.

Exemptions to the law exist, however. For example, the law does not apply to peace officers attempting to enter a home. It also does not apply to any person who holds equal legal rights to access the space in question.