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To what extent does the law allow you to defend yourself?

| Jan 29, 2021 | Violent Crimes |

Like most people in California, you do not condone criminal action. At the same time, however, you recognize that there may be situations where the unique conditions compel you to engage in conduct that (under normal circumstances) would be unlawful. To what extent, however, does the law make the same recognition?

Scenarios calling for defensive action may indeed require that you respond with force. State law does indeed allow for such action, yet only under certain circumstances. Understanding what those are is essential to answering to accusations of violent actions authorities may make against you.

Reviewing California’s standard for self-defense

Should you yourself subject to criminal charges due to your defensive actions, you may choose to take your case to trial in order to present your claims to a jury. Per California’s Criminal Jury Instructions, when assessing your actions, jury members may deem them justified if your case meets the following standard:

  • You had a reasonable belief that you (or a third party) were at risk of suffering serious bodily harm at the hands of another
  • You reasonably believe that only by reacting with force could you mitigate that threat
  • You used no more force than the situation called for in order to eliminate the danger

Defining “reasonable belief”

Are there situations where authorities assume the “reasonable belief” needed to justify your defensive actions existed? Such a belief exists when another person attempts to unlawfully enter into (or forcefully remove you or another from) your home, vehicle or place of business. This follows the tenants of the Castle Doctrine, which follows the old adage that your home is your proverbial “castle.” As such, the law empowers you to defend it (even with defensive action) when it comes under threat.