You abhor violence and have never been in a fight in your life. One day, you are attacked on the street and you felt you have no choice other than to defend yourself with force.
You’ve been charged for this and feel that it is greatly unjustified. Is it legal to defend yourself through violence in California?
Did you reasonably believe there was a threat?
In order to apply the doctrine of self-defense, the individual must have reasonably believed that there was a threat to their safety. For instance, if a person approached you and simply asked for directions, it would not be reasonable to believe that a threat existed. However, if a person approached you and demanded that you hand over your money, and proceeded to try and grab you, it would be reasonable to believe that you were under threat. The courts will essentially ask themselves whether any reasonable person would have felt the same way as you under the specific circumstances.
Was the threat imminent?
It is not enough to show that there was a legitimate threat, the threat must also be immediately present. For instance, if someone called you and said they were going to attack you tomorrow, it would not be self-defense to attend their house and use violence against them. However, if that same person is coming after you, and they have taken a swing, this would be an imminent threat.
Was the force minimal?
If someone shoved you and your response was to severely beat them, this would be a disproportionate amount of force. The amount of force used must be the lowest amount necessary under the circumstances.
In California, there is no duty to retreat and you do have a right to defend yourself. If you’re facing charges for actions that you believe were justified through self-defense, contacting an experienced criminal defense attorney in California will be in your best interests.