• SpanishSpanish
  • 7 Locations To Serve You
  • 855-397-0210

Can You Claim Self Defense Based on a Mistake?

May 3, 2020

Imperfect self defense may be used in limited situations.

Can You Claim Self Defense Based on a Mistake?

In cases involving physical violence, self defense may be argued if a person believes that they or someone else is under an immediate threat of great bodily injury or death. For example, if a woman is being physically abused by her spouse to the point that she fears that she will die, she may be able to use this defense if she kills him before he can kill her. But what happens if that belief was mistaken?

In these cases, “imperfect self defense” may be used. As a murder defense lawyer in San Bernardino, CA can explain, imperfect self defense is a legal concept that a defendant in a murder trial may use when they kill someone based on an honest but unreasonable belief that they need to use deadly force for self defense. There are three elements to this defense:

  • The defendant believes that they or someone else is in imminent peril of being killed or suffering great bodily injury;
  • The defendant believes that the immediate use of deadly force is necessary to protect against the danger; and
  • At least one of these beliefs is unreasonable.

If successful, then imperfect self defense will result in a charge being reduced from murder to voluntary manslaughter. As a result, the potential punishment will go from a possibility of life in prison to a term of 3 to 11 years in state prison.

This type of defense is rarely used, because most murder cases do not meet the standards set forth in California law (according to a 1979 California Supreme Court ruling, People v. Flannel). However, there are cases when a person cannot claim “perfect” self defense in a murder trial because their belief about the immediateness of the danger or the need to use deadly force was mistaken. In these situations, a seasoned murder defense lawyer in San Bernardino, CA may be able to argue for a reduced charge based on imperfect self defense.

Consider the example above, with just a few facts changed. The woman has suffered physical abuse in the past from her spouse, but at the time that she kills him, he was simply standing near her. When he raised his hand suddenly, she believed that he was going to strike her, so she shot him. Here, self defense may not work if a jury finds that (1) her belief that he was going to kill or greatly injure her was unreasonable; or (2) her belief that she needed to use deadly force to protect herself was unreasonable. In this situation, imperfect self defense may be used by a murder defense lawyer in San Bernardino, CA to get the charge reduced.

Asserting this type of defense can be challenging, as it requires convincing the jury to see the situation through the eyes of the defendant. This may involve introducing evidence about the history of the defendant in order to show that they were justified in using deadly force, even if their belief about the danger or the need to use force was mistaken.

At the Chambers Law Firm, we are experienced in defending clients who have been charged with all types of crimes, including murder. We use our knowledge to help our clients achieve the best possible outcome for their case. To learn more or to schedule a free initial consultation, contact us today at 855-397-0210 or dchambers@clfca.com.

Comments are closed.

Live Tweets

Dan's Den

Just one Man's Opinion

Sex Crimes–What is a “CSAAS” Expert?

In many cases involving sexual molestation or other sex crimes involving children, it is common for the prosecution (and sometimes the defense) to call a Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome ("CSAAS") expert. This expert, typically a psychiatrist or psychologist, seeks to provide insight to the jury concerning why children are reluctant to disclose sexual abuse and how children attempt to Continue Reading