(951) 667-5293

Orange County:

(714) 758-5293

who you hire can make all the difference

Mr. Donath has spent his entire career defending people and standing up for the rights of the accused.

request a free consultation
  • former deputy public defender

    As a former Deputy Public Defender in Riverside County, Mr. Donath has always been on the defense side of the law. 

  • award winning certified criminal law specialist

    Top 100 Trial Attorneys in California 2012-2014, 2008 Trial Attorney of the Year by the Riverside County Public Defender's Office, and dozens of other awards and accolades.

  • a true passion for defending the accused

    Your lawyer should have a passion for defense, not just a passion for money. Reputation, vigor, and determination go a long way in this business.

Request Consultation

request a free confidential consultation

*all fields are required
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

California Self-Defense Laws

Posted in Criminal Defense on November 15, 2018

Whether you are confronting a burglar or defending yourself from a physical attack, the right to use force to defend yourself is a widely accepted principle of criminal defense. When you are in a fight-or-flight situation, instinct tells you to preserve your own life by any means possible. Sometimes, incidents that involve self-defense can end in unpleasant, tragic circumstances.

Whether you are facing charges for assault, manslaughter, or homicide, actions done in self-defense should not have implications on your future and your freedom. It’s important to familiarize yourself with what the self-defense laws are for the state of California so that you know what the law defines as self-defense and what actions you should avoid. Riverside criminal defense lawyer, Graham Donath can help. At the Law Offices of Graham Donath we offer free case evaluations to help you establish that you acted in self-defense. We will fight to make sure you are not punished if you were simply defending yourself.

Self Defense Laws in California

California law divides the right to self-defense into three categories:

  • The right to defend oneself or another
  • The right to defend oneself in combat
  • The right to defend property

The Right to Defend Oneself or Another

The right to self-defend or defend another is the most common definition of self-defense and the one we usually associate with. If you used force against another person to defend yourself or another person, you are not guilty of the charge if:

  • You believed you or the other person was in danger
  • You used no more force than was necessary
  • You believed the force was necessary for your defense

The Right to Defend Oneself in Combat

The right of self-defense in mutual combat or as an initial aggressor is when you defend yourself during a fight that you started or participated in. You are not guilty of the charge if:

  • You tried to stop fighting in good faith
  • You indicated to your opponent that you wanted to stop fighting
  • You gave your opponent a chance to stop fighting

The Right to Defend Property

If you own property, you have the right to defend your property from imminent harm using reasonable force. California law defines reasonable force as the amount of force that any reasonable person would use in defending their property in the same situation.

For example, if you wake up in the middle of the night and see someone breaking into your car outside, the court may not consider shooting them as reasonable force since you were inside your home. If you wake up in the middle of the night and find a burglar with a knife in your home, the court may consider shooting them as reasonable force since you and your property were in imminent danger.

What is The Castle Doctrine in California?

While California is not a “stand your ground” state, it does recognize the castle doctrine. This doctrine states that a person has the right to use deadly force as a means of self-defense if an intruder unlawfully enters:

  • Their private home
  • Their place of business
  • Any other piece of real property they may own

California law states that you do not have a duty to retreat if you are on your own property. However, the castle doctrine ends once you are off your own property. In addition, any force used against an intruder should be proportional to the danger that you feared.

Contact attorney Graham Donath

How can an attorney help?

When working to prove self-defense after being charged with a crime, it is absolutely vital that you secure help from a skilled criminal defense attorney. Even if you believe that your actions were completely justified and that the evidence will support this, that is not necessarily mean that prosecutors see it the same way. It is important to understand that prosecutors are skilled attorneys and will do what they can to secure a conviction against you.

Your criminal defense attorney will be responsible for every aspect of your case. This will include:

  • Finding witnesses who will corroborate your self-defense claim.
  • Examining all of the physical evidence used by the prosecution to make their determination of appropriate charges.
  • Conduct an investigation in order to recover any new evidence that prosecution and law enforcement may have missed in the case.
  • Vigorously negotiate on your behalf with the prosecution in order to secure a more favorable situation.

Your attorney will work to show that your actions were proportional to the assailant’s actions in order to back up your self-defense claim. An important aspect of self-defense is showing that you did not use excessive force and that you stopped using force when there was no longer a threat. Your defense attorney will also work to show that you felt there was an imminent threat to your safety, the safety of others, or the safety of your property.

It is important to understand that most people charged with a crime do not have the legal experience or resources at their disposal to properly investigate their case. We also want to point out that relying on a public defender may not be the best course of action for your case. While public defenders are usually incredibly skilled at their jobs, they are also very overworked. If you are using a public defender, you are likely one of dozens of cases being handled by that particular attorney. When you turn to a private criminal defense attorney, you are guaranteeing personalized attention for your case. At the Law Offices of Graham Donath, APC, we are dedicated to providing stellar legal services to each client.

Can you still face jail time?

A person who argues that they acted in self-defense can most certainly still end up facing jail time. Consider there is a range of charges that a person can face even if they argue that they acted in self-defense. This could include:

  • Manslaughter
  • Murder
  • Simple assault
  • Aggravated assault
  • Battery
  • Domestic violence

Each of these charges, whether they are misdemeanor or felony charges, can result in serious penalties upon conviction. If a person claims that they were acting in self-defense when they harmed or killed another person, proving so can be difficult. In the absence of enough proof of self-defense, a defendant could be found guilty and face the penalties associated with the particular charge.

Just because you think that your claim of self-defense is obvious, that does not mean that it is going to be obvious to a judge or jury. If your claim of self-defense is brought into question, even just a little bit, suddenly you are the one facing serious criminal charges.

You will need to prove that you had a reasonable and proportional fear for your own life in order to use self-preservation as a defense. This is how California distinguishes between unjustified homicide and self-defense. A person who is defending his or her life should not have to face punishment because of actions taken in self-defense.