The recent acquittal of George Zimmerman, who was accused of shooting and killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, has raised many questions on the issue of self-defense. On a rainy evening in Florida in February 2012, Zimmerman made a call to police reporting a suspicious boy in his neighborhood. After hanging up with the dispatcher he and the boy were involved in a violent encounter. Soon thereafter, Zimmerman shot Martin fatally.1
The shooting gave us a glimpse into many states’ “stand-your-ground” laws. These laws give you the right to use deadly force if you are facing a “reasonable threat.”2 While stand-your-ground laws were not used in his defense, the jury in Zimmerman’s case was given an explanation of Florida’s stand-your-ground law. They went on to acquit him of second-degree murder.3
Would the stand-your-ground law apply in California? Let’s take a look at California’s self-defense laws.
California’s “Castle Doctrine” (PC Section 198.5)
Although California does not specifically have a “stand-your-ground” law, the Castle Doctrine is similar. Under Penal Code Section 198.5, you are allowed to use deadly force within your own home if you have a “reasonable fear of imminent peril or great bodily injury.”
If someone forces his or her way into your home unlawfully, a few things must occur to justify using deadly force:
- You knew or had reason to believe the person entered your home unlawfully;
- The intruder was acting unlawfully (not a police officer who was doing their job);
- There was a reasonable fear of death or injury to you, a family member or another member of the household; and
- You or the occupants of your home did not provoke the intruder in any way.
California Self Defense Laws Outside of Your Home (CALCRIM #505 and #506)
Of course, not all self-defense situations occur inside your home. Even though there is not a specific statute for standing your ground, California law does recognize your right to defend yourself with deadly force. California Jury Instructions (CALCRIM #505 and #506) describe this as “justifiable homicide.”
A jury is instructed to find you innocent of homicide, assault or other charges if you were acting reasonably under the circumstance. A reasonable circumstance under California Jury Instructions #505 and #506 means:
- You reasonably believed you were in danger of being injured or killed;
- You reasonably believed that you needed to use force to prevent this from happening; and
- You used no more force than was necessary to stop the threat.4
If you are facing a reasonable threat of being injured or killed, you do not have to run away under California law. As long as you did not make the first strike, a skilled criminal defense attorney can argue that you were acting in self-defense.
Self-defense can be used as a legal defense for several crimes including:
If you are being charged with any of these violent crimes, self-defense may be your best legal defense.
Call the Criminal Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Today
Accusations of murder, assault or other violent crimes are very serious and can impact your life greatly. That is why it is important to speak with an experienced attorney who can defend you against these allegations and show a jury that you were acting in self-defense. The attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have been successfully defending our clients accused of violent crimes for over 40 years.
With offices located in Orange County, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, Torrance, Riverside, West Covina, Victorville, Ventura, San Diego and Sherman Oaks, Wallin & Klarich has an established reputation of providing its clients with round-the-clock support.
Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will be there when you call.