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When is Self-Defense Legal in the State of California?


No violent act is casually tolerated under the law. In California, it can be legal for an individual to use violent or even deadly force to protect themselves or others from imminent harm if they can prove self-defense. However, it is not always easy to prove self-defense to a jury, especially if there is doubt as to whether the violent defense was justified.

California provides some allowances for the “Stand Your Ground” defense, meaning they are not forced to flee if it is safer for them to defend themselves from harm. While this can be a legal defense, it is even harder to prove in a courtroom.

If you have been forced to defend yourself or others from harm, it is advisable to speak with an attorney.

What is Needed to Prove Self-Defense?

To prove self-defense, one must generally prove that they believed that they or someone else was in imminent danger and that they were forced to act. They have to try to prove that their use of violent, or even deadly force, was believed to be necessary.

Self-defense requires that the defendant not go overboard in their use of force. The ‘proportionality requirement’ states that a violent defense must be proportional to the violence or threat they were faced with.

What Are Examples of Self-Defense?

Examples of self-defense may include:

  • Defending a child against abuse or predation.
  • Fighting back against a carjacking.
  • Fighting back against a mugger or some other assaulter on the street.
  • Killing someone who is attempting to kill you or someone else.
  • Punching back at an abusive partner.
  • Shooting a rapist or attempted murderer.
  • Striking a burglar with a weapon in your home or place of business.
  • Use of deadly force against a home intruder.

Typically, self-defense is not a premeditated act. However, in some cases where someone has repeatedly been threatened or victimized by another person, they may be able to successfully argue self-defense if they were finally forced to act to save themselves or another individual.

What is the Castle Doctrine?

Under California’s “Castle Doctrine,” any home intruder is treated as a threat of imminent danger. While it would be preferable to escape any home intruder situation without the use of violence, you do not have to flee a home intruder and are allowed to defend yourself and your family from harm if you feel it to be necessary.

The Castle Doctrine only applies to force that is used inside their home or residence. Unlike Stand Your Ground laws, the defendant fighting off a home intruder is presumed to be in fear of imminent harm or death.

It is not easy to argue the Castle Doctrine on your own, and it is smart to consult with a defense lawyer. Contact our law firm at (949) 990-4195 for legal assistance today.

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