The Right to Self Defense

Consider this hypothetical situation: Two neighbors have been arguing for months about landscaping that affects a part of land in front of one of their houses. After being physically and verbally abused, one of the neighbors purchases a gun. During a series of arguments, the neighbor with the gun believes he sees the other with a pistol. Fearful, he fatally shoots his neighbor two times. This is a case that requires consideration of California self-defense laws.

California Penal Code 3470, Right to Self-Defense or Defense of Another, provides a legal defense against a violent crime committed for the purpose of people protecting themselves. If a defendant committed a crime against another person in lawful self-defense or defense of another person, he /she is not guilty. This type of legal defense is very common, not only in situations like described above.

California Penal Code 3470 describes the factors that show that a defendant acted lawfully to protect himself / herself or another person. Firstly, the defendant must have believed that he / she or someone else was in danger of suffering an injury. Secondly, the defendant must reasonably believe that using force was necessary to defend against the danger. Lastly, the defendant must not use more force than was reasonably necessary in the situation to defend against the danger.

In California, there are variations of self-defense laws, such a California Penal Code section 198.5, the "castle doctrine." This law justifies the use of deadly force inside a person's house if someone enters the home. If such a situation creates a "reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily injury," the person is allowed to defend himself / herself using deadly force.

To be able to succeed using this type of legal defense, an experienced and skilled criminal defense attorney is a necessity. The word "reasonably," used multiple times throughout California self-defense laws, leaves the penal code up for interpretation. At Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP, we understand that all circumstances at the time of the event must be considered to determine if the defendant acted in a way that any reasonable person would have acted.

Our team is willing to defend your right to protect yourself. If you or a loved one was accused of a crime in which they acted in self-defense, an aggressive attorney can help prove their case. Call now to discuss your case with one of our attorneys before it's too late.