What Are California’s Self-Defense Laws?

In California, you have the right to defend yourself and others against imminent harm. The law allows you to use deadly force if you believe it is reasonable to protect yourself. You’re not required first to retreat if you’re in your home, but you have a duty to attempt to retreat if possible if you’re outside your home or workplace.

When you argue self-defense, the law presumes that you admit to committing a crime, but only because it was necessary to protect yourself. In other words, your argument implies that had you not used force or violence, you or someone else would not have been harmed in some way. Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys explain that this is known as affirmative defense.

What is the Legal Definition of Self-Defense in California?

Under California state laws, you are considered to act in self-defense if legally:

  • You reasonably believed you were in imminent danger of severe bodily injury
  • You reasonably believed that it was necessary to use force immediately to defend yourself against the threat you faced
  • You used reasonable force, and not more than necessary, to protect yourself against that danger

If you’re facing criminal charges where you’re accused of attacking or injuring another person, you could use self-defense as a strategy to beat the charges. However, the application of self-defense is often intricate, as various conditions must be met. Domestic violence lawyers in Los Angeles can evaluate your case and advise on the applicability of the principle to the charges.

Defense of Others and Your Property

In addition to defending yourself in the face of imminent danger, you can legally fight back to defend someone else other than yourself if you:

  • Reasonably believe they’re in imminent danger
  • Reasonably think you need to use force to prevent the danger
  • Use force that is no more than necessary

The same principles also apply if you use self-defense to protect your property from imminent threat of harm. Under California’s Castle Doctrine, you don’t have to retreat if an intruder comes to your home before using force.

You can confront and chase them away or even use deadly force if the intruder tries to break in. Domestic violence attorneys in Los Angeles point out that the law presumes you to have a reasonable fear of apparent harm when someone breaks into your home.

Under Which Circumstances Can I Act in Self-Defense?

Specific examples of crimes where self-defense applies under California laws are the following:

  • Battery or unlawful touching of someone. You can claim self-defense against a battery offense if you believe you were in imminent danger
  • Resisting arrest if you’re convinced the police used unlawful procedure or excessive force
  • Domestic violence perpetrated by an intimate partner
  • Assault with a deadly weapon, caustic chemicals, or assault with intent to commit a felony
  • Attempted murder if you were in danger of being killed
  • Robbery, rape, mayhem, or other criminal activities that put you at risk of great bodily harm

What is Imperfect Self-Defense?

An extension of the self-defense laws in California relates to cases of imperfect self-defense. It applies if you kill another person based on an honest but unreasonable belief of the need to defend yourself using deadly force. This is known as the Flannel Doctrine, and it is proved through the following elements:

  • You believed you were in imminent danger of being killed or suffering significant bodily injury
  • You believed that it was necessary to use deadly force immediately to defend yourself
  • At least one of these beliefs was unreasonable

How Can I Prove that I Acted in Self-Defense?

In using self-defense as a strategy to beat criminal charges, your Los Angeles domestic violence attorneys must prove the following factors to defend you successfully:

Imminent Danger

You can be excused for using violence if you can demonstrate that you were in danger of severe bodily harm or death. Using force can’t be considered self-defense under California laws if you can’t demonstrate imminent danger. For example, if someone pulls out a knife and threatens to inflict bodily harm, that would be regarded as imminent danger.

However, if someone threatens to “stab you to death someday” without actually pointing a knife at you, that may not be imminent danger. Your lawyers can thoroughly evaluate the circumstances to establish the element of impending danger.

Reasonable Belief of Real Danger

Your self-defense claim won’t be valid if you can’t prove that you had reasonable belief that there was a real threat. A judge will evaluate what a reasonable person would perceive as a real threat in establishing whether it existed.

Justifiable Amount of Force

When the law allows you to use force to defend yourself in the face of danger, you must use a justifiable amount of force to stop the threat of harm. For example, shooting someone to death because they kicked you would not be considered a justifiable amount of force.

Initial Aggressor

You may not claim self-defense if you were responsible for starting a fight. However, you may be justified in your claim if:

  • You made a good-faith attempt to stop the fight
  • You made it clear to the other party that you wanted to stop
  • If the other person continued to attack you and you used reasonable force to defend yourself, your actions would be justified.

An Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney Helping You Navigate Self-Defense Laws

If you’re facing violent crime charges, you may be able to claim self-defense to have the charges reduced or dropped. The principle of self-defense has many legal elements, and it would be in your best interests to work with aggressive criminal defense lawyers in Los Angeles to protect your rights.

Miranda Rights Law Firm has a team of dedicated and knowledgeable domestic violence lawyers who can help you fight the charges against you. We can argue you acted in self-defense or use another strategy to defend your rights. Call us at 213-293-1207 to schedule a FREE consultation.