What makes an action justifiable defense instead of assault? Worked into the legal system in an attempt to provide rules and guidelines for actions involving defense, it can be incredibly difficult for any citizen of the US to know exactly what their rights are. Protecting you, your family, and your property may require split second timing, not allowing you to look up your legal right in the situation before proceeding.
That is why it is absolutely important that you understand the laws surrounding home defense. The more you know about what is and is not acceptable, the more prepared you will if the situation arises. Let’s take a moment to review how California handles claims of “Stand Your Ground” and how this may affect defending your property from potential threats.
Where California Is On “Stand Your Ground” Laws
In California law or statutes there is no mention to a “Stand Your Ground” law. That being said, it can still be used as a justifiable defense if facing a homicide charge. In order to be successful, it must meet several conditions. First, you must be defending. Proactive aggression invalidates your claim. Second, you have to believe the danger to you or your family is imminent. Finally, you have to believe that using deadly force is the only way to resolve the situation. As long as the jury reasonably believes that you are in danger, you can be acquitted of the charges. These home defense laws come in to play when you are defending you, your family, and your home from outside your property. For example, if someone were threatening you as you walked on the street in front of your home, technically not being on your property yet would result in these rules. When you are on your property and threatened, the rules change.
The Castle Doctrine
Included below is a quote from the California Penal Code Section 198.5. The purpose of this quote is so that you know what the law has to say about home defense.
“A defendant is not required to retreat. He or she is entitled to stand his or her ground and defend himself or herself and, if reasonably necessary, to pursue an assailant until the danger of (death/great bodily injury/<insert forcible and atrocious crime>) has passed. This is so even if safety could have been achieved by retreating.”
The above is in reference to the Castle Doctrine and is as similar as California gets to have a similar law on the books. In particular, if a person ends up forcing their way onto your property and into your home, then you are fully allowed to protect yourself. That being said, even the justification for using deadly force has to be proved by you afterwards.
You will have to have believed that the person has entered your home in an unlawful manner. In addition, the person would have to be acting in a manner that can be considered unlawful. For example, if a fire fighter were putting out a fire inside your home, you would not have grounds to cause deadly force. Also, you have to believe that there is significant risk of injury or even death to yourself or your family. Finally, deadly force is only justified when you or someone in your home did not provoke the intruder.
Where Does That Leave Us?
The context of the situation is absolutely key. In the heat of the moment, you won’t be thinking about laws and guidelines. You will be thinking about securing the health and safety of you and those you love. However, by understanding the rules above, you can ensure that you are completely within the law when you are defending yourself. Tiny changes in your action can make the difference between possible jail time as well as life and death for the individual unlawfully in your own home. As the Castle Doctrine is designed for the benefit of the homeowner, use of deadly force is justified far more in cases where a person enters your home. Finally, other forms of protection, including those that are non lethal, do not carry with them the same burdens of proof.