If an intruder breaks into your house in California and you use deadly force to incapacitate him or her, do you know how does the law protects you, if at all?
While most people have a vague notion that self-defense laws exist, few may have a thorough knowledge of them. Becoming familiar with California’s self-defense laws before an incident happens may save you from receiving homicide charges in the future.
An overview of the castle doctrine
According to FindLaw, California recognizes the castle doctrine under its self-defense laws. The castle doctrine applies to your home, business or other property you own.
The doctrine allows you to protect your property against threats of harm using reasonable force. This means the force you use cannot exceed what the courts consider reasonable in proportion to the threat. In other words, you cannot kill an unarmed intruder who is cooperating with your demands to leave.
A summary of other self-defense laws
If the intruder becomes aggressive or threatens you with a firearm, California’s self-defense laws allow you to use reasonable force to defend yourself. If you respond to an aggressive, armed intruder by shooting them, the courts may consider this reasonable and acquit you of any manslaughter charges.
For situations that occur outside of your home, you have a duty to attempt to flee or escape the situation before using force to defend yourself. If you are unable to do so, reasonable force may be permissible under the state’s self-defense laws. This may apply to situations where you chase the intruder off your property.
California laws specifically state that homicide is not punishable when it is a justifiable and excusable act. With that in mind, however, reasonable force is the key element in such cases.