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Self-defense laws in California

On Behalf of | May 8, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

Section 197 through 199 of the California Penal Code outlines the state’s self-defense laws. The term used in the penal codes is justifiable homicide. Under Chapter 1, Homicide, there are sections on excusable homicides, or accidents, justifiable homicide by peace officers and justifiable homicide. Section 197 outlines four cases where committing homicide in California may be justifiable. Homicide is justifiable if one is resisting another’s attempt to murder, commit bodily harm or a forcible felony offense.

Self defense in California

In California, homicide is justifiable if one is defending their dwelling from another who intends or endeavors, by violence or surprise, to commit a felony. This self-defense provision also applies if this forcible action is intent on or endeavoring to enter the dwelling of another to commit violent acts against those within.

The next provision applies to the lawful defense of someone when there are reasonable grounds to infer an impending risk of a felony offense of bodily injury and the danger is imminent. The caveat here is that the defendant must have made a genuine effort to disengage in any mutual combat before the homicide occurred.

More on justifiable homicide in California

The final provision describes justifiable homicide in a situation where someone uses lawful means to apprehend someone committing a felony, suppressing a riot or keeping the peace. On this last provision, the onus may fall on criminal defense to argue that the felony offense was forcible and atrocious enough to warrant intervention.

In California, much of the self-defense law is based on the concept of bare fear. Not that fear alone is enough to justify homicide in self defense. Rather, were the circumstances sufficient enough to excite the fears of any reasonable person, and that the defendant acted on the influence of these fears alone.