What is the Castle Doctrine?

As a homeowner, your “castle” is a place of security and refuge. Although it is unpleasant to contemplate, burglaries and home invasions are a fact of life that can make homeowners feel vulnerable. 

In California, there is something called the Castle Doctrine that outlines when and how residents are allowed to defend themselves against intruders. It’s important to understand this law to protect yourself and your family. 

About the Castle Doctrine in California

About the Castle Doctrine in California

The Castle Doctrine refers to a legal principle that allows individuals to use deadly force to defend themselves, their property, and their loved ones against an intruder who breaks into their home. 

If this occurs, you are presumed to have a reasonable belief that your life or the lives of your family members are in danger, and you can use force to defend them and yourself. In this situation, there is no duty to retreat.

To claim self-defense based on the castle doctrine in a home invasion, you need to prove that the intruder unlawfully broke in or tried to break in, you were aware of this, and the intruder was not someone who lived with you.

The Castle Doctrine May Not Apply If the Intruder Was Around Your Property

California’s Castle Doctrine does not always apply when someone is on the property. The law only grants homeowners the right to use deadly force if someone is actually breaking into their residence.

One case that helps explain this is People v. Brown. In this case, a homeowner shot a handyman in the leg after he stepped onto a raised porch with a hammer. 

The judge ruled that the Castle Doctrine did not cover this action because it did not constitute an entry into the residence.

This example underscores the significance of grasping the intricacies of the Castle Doctrine in California and how it may or may not be applicable to your circumstances.

The Castle Doctrine vs. Stand Your Ground Laws

Stand Your Ground laws permit an individual to apply self-defense in situations where force is “reasonably necessary” to defend themselves. This means that a person may use deadly force if they reasonably believe that such force is required to prevent death or great harm. 

The Stand Your Ground Law applies in both public and private places, whereas the Castle Doctrine applies only to your home.

The Castle Doctrine: Potential Arrest and Trial

While the Castle Doctrine offers legal protections for homeowners in California, it does not guarantee immunity from arrest or prosecution. If you use force, especially deadly force, in your home, it is still possible that you may be arrested and charged with a crime, such as assault or homicide.

In such cases, the Castle Doctrine serves as a defense that you can present at trial. It will be up to you and your attorney to provide evidence that supports your claim of self-defense or defense of others under the Castle Doctrine. 

The prosecution, on the other hand, will seek to prove that your use of force was not justified or that the legal presumptions provided by the Castle Doctrine do not apply to your case.

Defending Yourself in California Using the Castle Doctrine

If you are charged with a crime, it is crucial to build a strong defense to prove that your actions were justified under the Castle Doctrine. Here’s how you can do that:

Step 1: Hire an Experienced San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney

The first and most crucial step in proving your Castle Doctrine case is to hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer who is familiar with California’s self-defense laws. Your attorney will help you navigate the legal process, gather evidence, and develop a solid defense strategy.

Step 2: Gather Evidence to Support Your Case

To prove that your actions were justified under the Castle Doctrine, you will need to gather evidence that demonstrates the following:

The intruder unlawfully entered your residence: Collect evidence that establishes the intruder’s unlawful entry, such as photographs of damaged doors or windows, surveillance footage, and witness statements.

You had a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily injury: To show that your fear was reasonable, gather evidence such as the intruder’s behaviors, any weapons or tools they possessed, and statements from witnesses who can attest to the intruder’s actions or behavior.

Step 3: Prepare for Trial

Your attorney will help you prepare for trial by organizing the evidence you’ve gathered, developing a clear narrative of the events that transpired, and preparing you for any potential cross-examination by the prosecution.

Step 4: Present Your Defense at Trial

During the trial, your attorney will present your Castle Doctrine defense to the judge and jury, using the evidence and witness testimony to demonstrate that your actions were justified under California law. The prosecution will attempt to counter your defense by presenting their own evidence and arguments, so it is essential to be well-prepared and have a strong legal strategy.

Contact a San Diego Criminal Defense Lawyer for Help Asserting the Castle Doctrine as a Defense

California law allows for the use of deadly force in self-defense, but the Castle Doctrine only provides protection in limited circumstances. Homeowners should consult a lawyer experienced in self-defense cases to understand their legal rights and obligations in such situations.