ISTOCK IMAGE ID 14880080In the past two years, there have been controversial cases across the country involving states’ self-defense laws. Most notably, Florida’s case involving George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin. According to, Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” Law is just one of three categories of self-defense laws. There are also Duty to Retreat and Castle Doctrine self-defense laws.

Castle Doctrine

Our state of California uses the Castle Doctrine. Pursuant with California Penal Code Section 198.5, “any person using force intended or likely to cause death or great bodily injury to self, family, or a member of the household when that force is used against another person, not a member of the family or household, who unlawfully and forcibly enters the residence and the person using the force knew or had reason to believe an unlawful and forcible entry occurred. What this means is that you would be justified in killing an intruder to save yourself and/or your family if you and/or a family member were put in danger. According to, the Castle Doctrine is limited to your home, yard, and/or your office. Personal vehicles are not included in California’s Castle Doctrine.

Justifiable Homicide

Anyone involved in a life-threatening conflict outside of the home will be evaluated in accordance with Criminal Law 505 (CALCRIM 505): Justifiable Homicide. This law does not require you to retreat, and it lets people chase their attacker. The cases that set precedence were People v. Hecker in 1895 and People v. Newcomer in 1897. According to KQED News, Hecker allowed people to stand their ground, and Newcomer ridded the law of the retreat requirement. CALCRIM 505 also sets the burden of proof on the people to show the jury that the killing was not justified.

“Reasonable Circumstances”

To prove self-defense in the justification of the killing, the defendant needs to convince the jury that their actions were “reasonable under the circumstances”. Reasonable circumstances are when the defendant can prove that there was indeed a logically perceived threat of suffering physical harm, that excessive force was the correct course of action, that the amount of force used was necessary to eliminate the threat. Examples of reasonable circumstances are attempted murder, rape, mayhem, and robbery.

Limits to Self-Defense

However, there are limits to self-defense. According to the California Firearms Laws Summary, one is not a reasonable circumstance to shoot the attacker. Other limitations include:

  • Instigators are ineligible for self-defense
  • There is no further danger from the assailant after use of self-defense
  • The assailant stops once there is a call for peace

Seek Consultation from Peter Blair Today

Self-defense can be used as a defense for many crimes. Most commonly assault and murder. Southern California residents can get free consultation from the Law Office of Peter Blair, by dialing (619) 357-4977. You can find all of the information you will need to bring to your first meeting on our frequently asked questions page.