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California Self-Defense

The right to use force (even deadly force if necessary) to defend oneself is a widely accepted principle of the criminal justice system. While all states allow defendants to claim self-defense if they can prove so, states vary on the scope of what might be considered appropriate use of force and when it may be applied. As an example, some states have what are frequently referred to as “stand your ground” laws, which basically eliminate the requirement to retreat from imminent danger. In states with these types of laws, individuals have the right to use deadly force to defend themselves regardless of where they are or whether they had an any opportunity to retreat.

California Self-Defense – The Castle Doctrine


The state of California is not a stand your ground state, but it does recognize the “Castle Doctrine” which applies to one’s home, place of business, or other real property. Similarly, an individual using deadly force to protect his or her property doesn’t necessarily have to retreat. But Castle Doctrine rights end when an individual is no longer on their real property. As a rule of thumb, any force used against an intruder must be proportionate to the harm reasonably feared.

Self-Defense & California Jury Instructions

In addition to the affirmative defense provided by the Castle Doctrine, the Judicial Council of California provides jury instructions for how to evaluate a defendant’s claim of self-defense.

Although you will need the help of a knowledgeable attorney to navigate this area of law, it’s important to point out that the right to use force in self-defense (or in defense of another) ends “when the attacker withdraws or no longer appears capable of inflicting any injury.”

If you are facing charges despite your act of self-defense, contact The Law Offices of Sara D. Bratsch today, for a FREE consultation!