Theodore Roosevelt, 1903

"Let us speak courteously, deal fairly, and keep ourselves armed and ready." - Theodore Roosevelt, 1903

Sunday, October 12, 2014

California State Law: The Use of Firearms in Defense of Life and Property

Dear Readers,

Since some folks have written to ask about the use of firearms in defense of life and property here in California, the state with the strictest gun laws, I figured that I'd give you the definition directly from the law itself.

The question of whether use of a firearm is justified for self-defense cannot be reduced to a simple list of factors. This section is based on the instructions generally given to the jury in a criminal case where self-defense is claimed and illustrates the general rules regarding use of firearms in self defense.

This is per the State of California website:
CALIFORNIA FIREARMS LAWS

Use of a Firearm or Other Deadly Force in Defense of Life and Body

The killing of one person by another may be justifiable when necessary to resist the attempt
to commit a forcible and life-threatening crime, provided that a reasonable person in the same or similar situation would believe that

(a) the person killed intended to commit a forcible and life threatening crime;

(b) there was imminent danger of such crime being accomplished; and

(c) the person acted under the belief that such force was necessary to save himself or herself or another from death or a forcible and life-threatening crime. Murder, mayhem, rape, and robbery are examples of forcible and life-threatening crimes.

Self-Defense Against Assault

It is lawful for a person being assaulted to defend himself or herself from attack if he or she has reasonable grounds for believing, and does in fact believe, that he or she will suffer bodily injury.

In doing so, he or she may use such force, up to deadly force, as a reasonable person in the same or similar circumstances would believe necessary to prevent great bodily injury or death.

An assault with fists does not justify use of a deadly weapon in self-defense unless the person being assaulted believes, and a reasonable person in the same or similar circumstances would also believe, that the assault is likely to inflict great bodily injury.

It is lawful for a person who has grounds for believing, and does in fact believe, that great bodily injury is about to be inflicted upon another to protect the victim from attack.

In so doing, the person may use such force as reasonably necessary to prevent the injury.

Deadly force is only considered reasonable to prevent great bodily injury or death.

NOTE: The use of excessive force to counter an assault may result in civil or criminal penalties.

Protecting One’s Home

A person may defend his or her home against anyone who attempts to enter in a violent manner intending violence to any person in the home.

The amount of force that may be used in resisting such entry is limited to that which would appear necessary to a reasonable person in the same or similar circumstances to resist the violent entry.

One is not bound to retreat, even though a retreat might safely be made.

One may resist force with force, increasing it in proportion to the intruder’s persistence and violence, if the circumstances apparent to the occupant would cause a reasonable person in the same or similar situation to fear for his or her safety.

The occupant may use a firearm when resisting the intruder’s attempt to commit a forcible and life threatening crime against anyone in the home provided that a reasonable person in the same or similar situation would believe that

(a) the intruder intends to commit a forcible and life-threatening crime;

(b) there is imminent danger of such crime being accomplished; and

(c) the occupant acts under the belief that use of a firearm is necessary to save himself or herself or another from death or great bodily injury.

Murder, mayhem, rape, and robbery are examples of forcible and life threatening crimes.

Any person using force intended or likely to cause death or great bodily injury within his or her residence shall be presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily injury to self, family, or a member of the household when that force is used against another person, not a member of the family or household, who unlawfully and forcibly enters or has unlawfully and forcibly entered the residence and the person using the force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry had occurred. Great bodily injury means a significant or substantial physical injury. (Penal Code § 198.5.)

NOTE: If the presumption is rebutted by contrary evidence, the occupant may be criminally
liable for an unlawful assault or homicide.

Defense of Property

The lawful occupant of real property has the right to request a trespasser to leave the premises.

If the trespasser does not do so within a reasonable time, the occupant may use force to eject the trespasser.

The amount of force that may be used to eject a trespasser is limited to that which a reasonable person would believe to be necessary under the same or similar circumstances.

Limitations on the Use of Force in Self-Defense

The right of self-defense ceases when there is no further danger from an assailant.

Thus, where a person attacked under circumstances initially justifying self-defense renders the attacker incapable of inflicting further injuries, the law of self-defense ceases and no further force may be used.

The right of self-defense is not initially available to a person who assaults another.

However, if such person attempts to stop further combat and clearly informs the adversary of his or her desire for peace but the opponent nevertheless continues the fight, the right of self-defense returns and is the same as the right of any other person being assaulted.

Editor's Note:

The above information is unedited as found in California Firearms Laws 2007 website
http://ag.ca.gov/firearms/forms/pdf/Cfl2007.pdf

Tom Correa

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