A lot of attention has been afforded to “stand your ground” laws across the country following the highly publicized and fatal encounter between George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin in Florida in 2012. We will leave the details of that specific case for another time and place, but the subject of “stand your ground” laws is worth an in depth discussion.
The term “stand your ground” has been used across the country by a variety of states to describe their self-defense laws. In Texas for example, the term “stand your ground” is used because the self-defense laws state that an individual is allowed to use force against a perceived attacker if they are unable to hold or stand their ground, and they fear imminent and serious harm to themselves. In other words, you could make a valid defense for shooting someone who advanced upon you in a way that instilled fear of harm within you, as long as their advancement hampered your ability to stand your ground. In California, the laws surrounding the use of force during self-defense are governed by the “Castle Doctrine” PC Section 198.5.
When Can I Legally Use a Gun in Self Defense in California?
In California, the use of deadly force during self-defense is treated differently whether the altercation takes place inside your home or outside your home. There is no specific mention of firearms or other weapons – the law is based upon whether you had the right to protect yourself using deadly force, regardless of the means used.
Inside Your Own Home
Under Penal Code 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”. This however is not the only justification required, and a few other key things must occur:
- You knew or had reason to believe the intruder entered your home unlawfully
- The intruder was acting unlawfully (was not someone doing their job, such as a police officer)
- There was a reasonable fear of death or injury to you or another occupant of the home
- You or any other occupants of the home did not provoke the intruder
Outside of Your Home
Self-defense situations can occur anywhere and at any time, and California law recognizes that individuals have the right to defend themselves with deadly force outside the home as well. California Jury Instructions (CALCRIM #505 & #506) describe this act as “justifiable homicide”. These instructions provide juries across the state with a set of circumstances that are supposed to result in an innocent verdict for individuals charged with assault, homicide or other crimes committed during self-defense.
- You had a reasonable fear of being injured or killed
- You had the reasonable belief that you needed to use force to protect yourself from being injured or killed
- You used no amount of force above that which was needed to stop the imminent threat
What Do I Do If I Have Been Charged for Defending Myself
If you have been charged with assault, homicide or any other crime related to the defense of you or your family member’s, it is imperative that you call an experienced Sacramento criminal lawyer immediately. The lawyers at this criminal defense law office have been defending individuals charged with crimes during self-defense for years and have the necessary experience to secure you the best possible defense. Please give us a call for a consultation today!