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Can You Use the Castle Doctrine in California?

July 26, 2020

There is no duty to retreat in Californians in their homes.

Can You Use the Castle Doctrine in California?

In recent years, there has been significant media attention given to situations where a person used deadly force against someone else. In some states, “stand your ground” rules allow individuals to use force if they believe that they are in danger of immediate harm.In California, if a person is in fear of an intruder when inside of their home, the Castle Doctrine may apply.

Under the Castle Doctrine, people in their homes have no duty to retreat if an intruder breaks into their home or tries to force their way into the house. Instead, there is a legal presumption that — in certain situations — a resident reasonably feared imminent death or great bodily harm to themselves, and could therefore use force, including deadly force, against an intruder. A criminal defense attorney in Riverside, CA can use this legal doctrine to argue that criminal charges shouldn’t be brought, or that the charges should be dropped.

The Castle Doctrine is based on the idea that the act of forcible entry into a home is a threat to the life and limb of the residents. It can be used if:

  • An intruder or burglar unlawfully and forcibly enters or tries to enter the home;
  • The resident knew or reasonably believed that an intruder unlawfully and forcibly entered or was entering the home;
  • The intruder was not a member of the household or family;
  • The resident used force intended or likely to cause death or great bodily injury to the intruder inside the home.

For purposes of this law, great bodily injury means significant or substantial physical injury — something more than minor or moderate harm.

The Castle Doctrine is a legal presumption, which means that a prosecutor must prove that the resident did not have a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily injury when using force against an intruder. In essence, it gives a resident the benefit of the doubt so that even if the intruder is killed, it may be considered a justifiable homicide.

The Castle Doctrine only applies inside of a person’s home. It can’t be used if someone comes into your yard, for example, or steps onto your porch. However, there may be other principles of self defense that a criminal defense attorney in Riverside, CA can use in these cases. For example, if homeowner kills a person who entered their yard and threatened them with a knife, they may be able to argue that they acted in self defense if they reasonably believed that there was imminent danger, that the use of deadly force was necessary, and they used no more force than necessary to defend themselves.

If you have been charged with a crime in California while you were attempting to defend yourself, your family, or your home, you may be able to use a defense based on the Castle Doctrine. The Chambers Law Firm can evaluate your case to determine if this or another legal defense may apply. Contact us today at 855-397-0210 or dchambers@clfca.com to schedule a free consultation with a criminal defense attorney in Riverside, CA.

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