If you were involved in a heated physical altercation which resulted in criminal
assault charges, self-defense may apply to your case. California self-defense
laws state that you cannot be found guilty of committing a
violent crime in order to protect yourself or another person, only if your actions were
reasonable according to the circumstances.
A reasonable circumstance means all the following:
- You reasonably believed that (you or another individual) was in imminent
danger of getting hurt or killed.
- You reasonably believed it was necessary to use force (either lethal or
nonlethal, depending on the situation) to prevent harm.
- You used the amount of force reasonably required to stop the threat.
Imminent danger needs to happen at the precise moment, not in the near
feature or at another point in time. You are only justified to use force
when the danger is imminent.
Reasonable belief means acting in a manner a reasonable person would when
placed in the same situation. If the jury would’ve acted in a similar
manner, your actions will be deemed reasonable.
The amount of force used for protection needs to be proportionate to the
danger you encounter. For instance, if a person starts a fight by punching
you, you are not justified to use deadly force to stop the brawl.
Even if you start the fight or engage in mutual combat, it is possible
to still claim self-defense based on the circumstances. If you attempted
to end the fight in good faith, indicated to the other person involved
that you wish to stop the fight, and gave the other person a chance to
stop fighting, you may use self-defense. However, if you provoke a fight
to make an excuse for using force, self-defense does not apply.
When it comes to altercations within your home, you have the right to use
deadly force if you have a reasonable fear of imminent danger or great
bodily harm. Even if you also had the option of retreating, state law
allows you to still use reasonable force to defend yourself or another person.
If an intruder attempts to break into your home, you are justified to use
deadly force if all the following are true:
- You had reason to believe someone is unlawfully entering your home.
- The intruder acted in an unlawful manner.
- You or another household member had a reasonable fear of great bodily harm or death.
- You or another household member didn’t provoke the intruder.
For more information about California self-defense laws,
contact our Santa Barbara criminal defense attorneys at
Appel & Morse today.