California's Castle Doctrine & Self-Defense Law
Can You Shoot a Home Intruder in California?
California is not a “stand your ground” state. However, this does not mean that Californians lack the right to protect themselves in the face of imminent perceived danger. In California, if someone breaks into your home, for example, you are permitted to use deadly force to protect yourself, others, and your personal/real property.
If you need to speak to a California gun law attorney, or you have further questions about California’s self-defense laws, contact the Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry for a free consultation. We are available 24/7 for our clients.
Call Virginia L. Landry, the Gun Queen, at (888) 272-6668 or submit an online contact form.
What Is the “Castle Doctrine?”
The so-called “castle doctrine” permits individuals to protect themselves and others with the use of deadly force when they are on their own private property. This includes in their homes, at their places of business, and on other real properties. The doctrine has certain limitations, however, as individuals may only use force against an individual that they believe will cause them harm. Additionally, the use of self-defensive force must be generally proportionate to the level of harm an individual fears they may experience. It is also important to note that the right to use deadly force ends when the individual no longer has reason to believe the other person will cause them harm, either because they have fled or for some other reason.
For example, if someone breaks into your home with a weapon in the middle of the night, you will reasonably fear that he or she intends to harm you. The castle doctrine allows you to use deadly force against the intruder as long as there is an imminent threat. If you shoot a warning shot and the intruder flees, any additional force you take while the intruder is outside of your home/no longer on your property may not be permitted by the castle doctrine.
Additionally, as stated above, the use of force to defend your home/property must be reasonable in relation to the perceived threat. If a group of unarmed teenagers trespasses on your property in the middle of the day, the use of deadly force will likely not stand up in court.
Your Right to Self-Defense Outside Your Home
Californians are not only permitted to take defensive action in their homes or on their personal properties; they may also act in self-defense if they are attacked, threatened, or otherwise believe they may be harmed by another person, regardless of where they are.
California self-defense laws allow you to use force against another person if the following things are true:
- There was reason for you to believe that you were in imminent danger of being unlawfully touched or suffering bodily injury/harm;
- There was reason for you to believe that you needed to use immediate force in order to protect yourself from the imminent danger; and
- You only used the amount of force necessary to stop/attempt to stop the imminent danger
If you are the person who started a fight or if you engage in mutual combat with another individual, you may still use protective force if you attempted to stop the fighting, indicated clearly (in words or conduct) that you wanted to/had stopped fighting, and if you allow your opponent the opportunity to also stop fighting. If you take all of these actions but the other person continues to fight, you have the right to self-defense.
Defending Others & Defending Personal Property
Just as you have the right to protect yourself in the event that you face imminent danger, you also have the right to protect others that you believe are facing an immediate threat. You are legally allowed to use deadly force in order to protect other people if you believe that they are in imminent danger of being unlawfully touched/suffering bodily injured and if the same criteria is met as if you were protecting yourself.
In contrast, you have the right to use reasonable force in order to protect your property if you believe it is facing a threat of imminent harm. In such cases, the amount of force you use to defend your property must generally align with the level of perceived threat.
For more information, contact Virginia L. Landry at (888) 272-6668.
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