Suppose you are home alone and suddenly a group of teenagers starts breaking into your property. They're unaware of your presence in the house and they are unarmed. You, on the other hand, have a loaded pistol at your reach and a window with which you can escape without being detected. In this situation, would you rather retreat and put yourself in a safer place or confront the trespassers and assert your right as the landowner? And if you chose the latter and end up killing one of them, would you still be considered innocent even if you had the opportunity to run away?
The answer to that question varies from state to state. Some states have what is commonly referred to as “stand-your-ground” laws that uphold the right of individuals to use force to defend themselves regardless if they had the opportunity to escape from imminent danger. While California does not have a "stand-your-ground" law, it does have a similar statute. The California Criminal Jury Instructions (CALCRIM) 505 and 506 deal with self-defense that involves deadly force and it is applicable in and out of a residence. In some way, both regulations are quite like the “stand-your-ground” laws in a way that it does not give the defender the duty to retreat. Perhaps the only difference is that not only do you have the option to stay and fight, but you can even chase your assailant until the threat is neutralized. This is, of course, given that the amount of force is reasonable.
- The assailant acted with ill-intent to cause great bodily injury or murder;
- The use of force -- deadly or not -- was executed in defense rather than attack; and
- The defender reasonably believed that he/she or others were in imminent peril of death or great bodily injury.
To help you further understand whether or not an act is protected by law, let us take a look at some examples that may invoke the “stand-your-ground” rights in California:
- An abusive ex-lover had just shown up on your friend's living room without prior notice. He is begging her to come back to him. Your friend repeatedly rejects his plea, but he begins grabbing her violently until you give in to his desires. Meanwhile, you happen to be arriving at your friend's house for a sleepover and see both of them in a heated argument. You know what the guy is capable of, so you carry your pistol with you and barge inside her residence. Instead of escaping with your friend, you begin chasing him down with a firearm until he drives away.
- A family of four is peacefully sleeping inside their home. At around 1pm, a loud banging noise wakes everyone up. The father begins to inspect around the house and discovers that someone has chopped down their door. He quickly grabs his assault rifle and gathers his family inside the master bedroom. He sees two armed men sneaking down the hallway and starts shooting at both of them. After immobilizing the two intruders, he then commands his wife and kids to escape from the house while he remains inside to protect their property.
- While attending a party with your girlfriend, a drunk man grabs you by the shoulder and asks if he could take home your partner for just one night. You ask him to get away, but then he gets offended and tries to throw a punch. You give him another chance to retreat, but this time he grabs one of his friends and both of them invite you to a fistfight. You refuse and ask them to go away one more time, but then one of them pulls you in and kicks you in the abdomen. Instead of walking away and reporting them to the security guards, you retaliate by knocking both of them out.
Self-defense cases can include a multitude of different offenses, such as:
If you have been charged for using deadly force inside your own home against a violent intruder, you may challenge it using the following defenses:
- You reasonably believed that there was an imminent peril of death or great bodily injury to you or other residents inside the home;
- The amount of force used was equal to the force used by the assailant;
- You acted in self-defense
Remember, if you do not have a solid argument to invoke your Castle Doctrine rights, you might face severe legal consequences especially if you killed the alleged aggressor. Hence, we highly encourage you to hire a professional criminal defense lawyer. An aggressive attorney will assert your rights and will not rest until you get the results you deserve.
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