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California Use of Force: Self-Defense and Stand Your Ground

By San Diego Attorney on January 5, 2024

A hand blocking a punch in front of a grey background.

California law provides individuals with the right to use force in self-defense under specific circumstances. While self-defense laws in California provide a legal foundation for the justifiable use of force, veering outside these boundaries can lead to serious criminal charges with significant consequences. If you were in a situation where self-defense was necessary, an experienced San Diego criminal defense lawyer can assess the elements of self-defense related to your case and ensure your rights stay protected during legal proceedings.

Understanding Valid Self-Defense

An individual can claim self-defense as a valid defense to a crime, but only if their use of force was reasonable and necessary to prevent an impending injury. It’s important to keep in mind that this defense may not be available if the defendant was the aggressor or used force to resist an arrest.

It is legal for a person to use force in specific situations. These include resisting a threat with force when the individual is in fear of death or severe bodily harm. Deadly force can only be used when resisting an attempt to commit a violent felony, such as murder, rape, mayhem, robbery, or burglary, which threatens death or severe bodily harm.

Justifying the Use of Force

In order to justify the use of force, there are certain requirements that need to be met. One of these is the presence of reasonable fear. This means that the person using force must genuinely believe that they are in danger and that there are sufficient reasons for a reasonable person to believe that the use of force is necessary. It’s important to note that mere threats alone are not enough to justify the use of force; there must also be some accompanying act that supports the belief that force is necessary.

When it comes to self-defense, the amount of force a person can use is determined by a few factors. If someone is justified in using force, they are allowed to use whatever means necessary to prevent imminent injury, as long as the force used is not clearly disproportionate to the threat. In determining the reasonableness of fear, one can consider the assailant’s reputation for violence. Additionally, expert testimony on intimate partner battering could be considered.

Stand Your Ground

There is no duty to retreat if a person has reasonable grounds to believe someone is about to inflict bodily injury. This exception doesn’t apply in certain cases, which include claiming self-defense in an ex-felon in possession of a firearm prosecution.

If the defendant initiated a quarrel or encouraged a confrontation with the intention of creating the necessity for an assault, they cannot claim self-defense. However, the right to self-defense can be reinstated if the initial assailant or a person engaged in mutual combat genuinely attempts to decline further struggle.

Acting Beyond Valid Self-Defense

If you act with violence in a way that isn’t covered by California’s self-defense laws, you may face various criminal charges depending on the circumstances. It’s important to note that this information is a general overview, and specific charges and penalties can vary based on the details of each case. Consulting with a legal professional for advice tailored to your situation is recommended. Here are some potential charges and penalties:

  • Assault and battery: Assault is defined as intentionally causing the apprehension of harmful or offensive contact, while battery is defined as the intentional and unlawful use of force that results in harmful or offensive contact. The penalties for assault and battery can range from fines to imprisonment, depending on the severity of the offense.
  • Manslaughter or murder: Voluntary manslaughter is an act of unlawful killing that typically occurs in the heat of passion, without any malice aforethought. On the other hand, murder is an act of unlawful killing that involves malice aforethought. The penalties for these two offenses vary depending on the degree of the offense and can range from imprisonment to life sentences.
  • Aggravated assault or aggravated battery: Aggravated assault or aggravated battery involves the use of a weapon or the intent to cause serious bodily harm. Penalties for these crimes are more severe than those for simple assault or battery and may include longer prison sentences.

We’re Here To Secure Your Defense

Protect your rights and future by contacting jD Law Criminal Defense Attorneys. Our San Diego legal team stands ready to provide unwavering support and personalized counsel tailored to your specific case.

Your first step toward a strategic and informed defense begins here—call (760) 630-2000 today for a free consultation.

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