Self Defense

The law of self-defense or what is popularly known as “stand your ground laws” gives you the right to use use(even deadly force) to defend yourself if you are facing a “reasonable threat”.

California allows individuals faced with such threats to use whatever means you have to defend yourself and yet be absolved of any criminal liability

Under what circumstance can you use force?

  • Under the California penal code, you are justified to use deadly force if you are at home and someone breaks in. For instance, if a burglar breaks into your house with a intention to steal. There are high chances that they may harm you. In that case, you are in “reasonable danger” of harm or injury. If you are under attack in your house and you firmly believe that you are facing imminent danger, then you are justified in using deadly force to defend yourself.
  • According to California Criminal Jury Instructions (CALCRIM), though not part of the Californian law, you are allowed to pursue attackers or any other assailants out of your homes even if your safety would have been achieved by retreating to seclusion. The jury, in this case, may acquit the accused if you successfully prove that you acted in your defens. This principle is found in CALCRIM numbers 505 and 506.

This law of standing your ground in self-defense is part of justifiable homicide, but certain conditions have to be met:

  • You must not be the aggressor or the attacker or the first one to strike, and you have to be defending yourself,
  • You must have reasonably believed that your life is in serious threat or danger in that moment and not in the future.
  • You must believe that deadly force is necessary, and enough force must have been used in self-defense.

It is worth noting that the defendant need not be correct in his or her judgment about being in danger. They only need to have believed they were in real danger at that particular moment. Therefore, you don’t have to be in actual danger as long as you reasonably believed you were going to be harmed.

If the aggressor is not using a deadly weapon, you are not justified to use a deadly weapon like a knife in your defense, not unless you reasonably believe the attacker will cause serious bodily harm or injury. The right to self-defense is only considered during the time of imminent danger, and when that danger ceases, the right to use force in self-defense will no longer apply.

When is self-defense applicable in a combat?

In a situation of mutual combat the right of self-defense can only be applicable if all the following circumstances are met:

  • If one tried to or refused to continue with the fight,
  • If he informs the opponent that he no longer wants to keep fighting,
  • If he tells his opponent that he has actually stopped fighting, and
  • If he has granted his opponent the chance to stop fighting.

If the defendant has done all the above and the accused continued to fight, then you have the right to self-defense against his opponent.

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