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Understanding Self-Defense Laws in California

Posted on in Criminal Defense

San Jose, CA self defense criminal attorneyIf you believe that your life or your well-being is in danger, it can be a scary experience, and you will probably do whatever is needed to protect yourself. This is called the "fight or flight" response, which is a biological human response to danger. Courts understand this response, which is one reason why self-defense laws have been put into place.

Many states have what are known as “Stand Your Ground” laws, which are self-defense laws that allow citizens to use a certain level of force to protect themselves. California is not one of those states, but it does have a version of self-defense called the Castle Doctrine. California also has Criminal Jury Instructions on the topic of self-defense that are given to jurors when deciding a case. 

California’s Castle Doctrine

The California Penal Code contains a provision called the Castle Doctrine, which is very similar to other states’ “Stand Your Ground” laws. PEN 198.5 is the section of the penal code that allows people to use deadly force to protect themselves on their own property. The law states that anyone in this circumstance who uses physical force that is likely to cause death or great bodily injury is “presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily injury to self, family or a member of the household.” A few criteria must also be met in order to successfully invoke the Castle Doctrine: you must also believe or have reason to believe that the person entered your home, and you must not have provoked the intruder in any way.

California Criminal Jury Instructions

You also have a right to self-defense when not in your home or on your property. While not technically a law, California’s Civil Jury Instructions (CALCRIM) #505 and #506 instruct jurors on when there is an acceptable reason to use deadly force against someone. 

CALCRIM #505 states that it is legally permissible to use deadly force if you are attempting to protect yourself or someone else. You are only acting lawfully by using deadly force if:

  • You reasonably believed that you or someone else was in danger of death or great bodily harm;
  • You reasonably believed that you needed to use force to prevent the harm to yourself or others; and
  • You did not use more force than was necessary to defend.

CALCRIM #506 is basically a different iteration of the Castle Doctrine, stating that a person is able to use deadly force to defend against himself, a family member or a member of the household if a person intrudes into his or her home.

Contact a San Jose, CA Violent Crime Defense Attorney

Whether you are legally permitted to use deadly force against someone if you believe your or another’s life is in danger depends on the specifics of your situation. Self-defense can be difficult to successfully argue, which is why an experienced San Jose, CA violent crime defense lawyer should be utilized if you believe you acted in self-defense. When you get in touch with Jachimowicz Law Group, you can have peace of mind knowing you will be getting an aggressive defense attorney who has decades of experience defending clients. Contact our office today at 408-246-5500 to schedule a free consultation.  






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