If you’re a proud business or homeowner in California, chances are you know you have the right to protect yourself and your business in case of a threat. You may have thought about the many ways you can secure or defend your property. Maybe you even own a gun or two just in case. Most of us only consider one outcome during an altercation with an intruder or someone who means you harm; that you have to emerge the winner at all costs.
However, a self-defense claim can quickly turn into an assault or manslaughter charge. There are so many laws in the U.S. that allow Americans to defend themselves when threatened, but how far one can use their defenses depends on each state. This article will explain the difference between different self-defense laws, particularly the Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground laws.
What is Self-Defense?
In a broad sense, self-defense is when you use force to protect yourself, your family, or property from the threat of an aggressor. Self-defense typically applies to anyone facing an imminent threat. Still, the type of defense you should use will inherently depend on your location, type of danger, and the possible outcome. For example, someone defending his or her home from within won’t necessarily use the same self-defense mechanism as someone defending his or her person in a public place.
Self-defense is a general area of law containing other statutory regulations; the ‘Stand Your Ground’ law and the Castle Doctrine are two of the most common.
Stand Your Ground vs. Castle Doctrine
In many states, the phrases ‘defend your castle’ and ‘stand your ground’ are often used interchangeably when talking self-defense laws. Although it might seem that the two tend to overlap in some instances, the details in individual cases can make the difference between a manslaughter conviction or a self-defense acquittal.
The Castle Doctrine
The Castle Doctrine is one’s statutory right to defend his or her home through deadly or reasonable force. The law also permits the same for intruders or attackers entering a person’s vehicle or workplace. In essence, the law allows two things:
- A person to defend himself or herself against a threat from an attacker that forcefully tries to enter their home, business, or vehicle
- A person to use reasonable force against the attacker to neutralize the threat
The Castle Doctrine possesses limitations. For example, you cannot use deadly force on trespassers who are not forcibly trying to gain access to your premises, like peeping Toms.
In such situations, where prowlers or trespassers are not trying to make a forced entry, the Castle Doctrine law only permits you to brandish a weapon and demand that the trespasser leave your property. Some states even allow you to fire a warning shot first.
Stand Your Ground
Like the Castle Doctrine, Stand your Ground law is another statutory right accorded to some states’ citizens. A “Stand Your Ground law” permits one to defend themselves from bodily harm or injury without first attempting to retreat. However, unlike the Castle Doctrine, Stand Your Ground allows you to protect yourself wherever you’re facing a threat and not just in your home, car, workplace. In states that don’t have a Stand Your Ground law, the victim must try and retreat from a threat before attempting to meet the threat with force.
It’s important to note that even Stand Your Ground laws have similar statutory restrictions on them, like Castle Doctrine. The law might require that the force a victim uses should be proportional to the perceived threat. Secondly, some regulations may also require that the person claiming self-defense should not be the initial aggressor.
California’s Self-Defense Laws
As we’ve come to establish thus far, not all states have uniform self-defense laws. California is a state that does not an established Stand Your Ground law but recognizes the Castle Doctrine in Sections 198.5–199 of the California Penal Code. California also allows a jury to make a verdict on a stand your ground defense as stipulated in the California Criminal Jury Instructions (CALCRIM).
According to procedures #505 and #506 or CALCRIM, a defendant does not need to retreat. To be clear, CALCRIM states that they are:
‘entitled to stand their ground and defend themselves, and if necessary, pursue the assailant until the threat of death/injury/ crime has passed…’
So what does this mean for Californians? Not only are you allowed to stay and fight, but you may also further pursue your attacker to neutralize the threat. This could potentially be upheld even if retreating was the safest option. In other words, when it comes to using lethal force on intruders, a self-defense claim will not always give you a free pass with a jury. Unlike states with accurate and concise self-defense laws, California’s are still grey and vague. Whether you’re just interested in learning about self-defense laws or fighting a criminal charge relating to self-defense, it should always be in your best interest to speak to an experienced criminal lawyer. Contact Attorney Don Hammond at Criminal Defense Hero today.