Self Defense And Defense Of Another
California Jury Instruction number 3470 lays out the law of self defense in California. It states:
Self defense is a defense to assault. A person is not guilty of an assault if he or she used force against the other person in lawful self defense or defense of another. A person acts in self defense or defense of another if:
- The person reasonably believed that he or she or someone else was in imminent danger of suffering bodily injury or was in imminent danger of being touched unlawfully;
- The person reasonably believed that the immediate use of force was necessary to defend against the danger; and
- The person used no more force than was reasonably necessary to defend against that danger.
Belief in future harm is not sufficient, no matter how great or how likely the harm is believed to be. The person must have believed there was imminent danger of bodily injury to himself, herself or someone else or an imminent danger that he, she, or someone else would be touched unlawfully. A person’s belief must have been reasonable and he or she must have acted because of that belief. A person is only entitled to use that amount of force that a reasonable person would believe is necessary in the same situation. If a person used more force than was reasonable, the person did not act in lawful self-defense or defense of another.
A person’s belief that he, she or someone else was threatened may be reasonable even if he or she relied on information that was not true. However, the defendant must actually and reasonably have believed that the information was true.
Someone who has been threatened or harmed by a person in the past is justified in acting more quickly or taking greater self-defense measures against that person.
A person is not required to retreat. He or she is entitled to stand his or her ground and defend himself or herself and, if reasonably necessary, to pursue an assailant until the danger of death or bodily injury has passed. This is so even if safety could have been achieved by retreating.
Defense of Property
In California, an assault is not necessarily unlawful if it is done while defending your property. California Criminal Jury Instruction number 3476 explains:
The owner or possessor of real or personal property may use reasonable force to protect that property from imminent harm. A person may also use reasonable force to protect the property of a family member or guest from immediate harm.
Reasonable force means the amount of force that a reasonable person in the same situation would believe is necessary to protect the property from imminent harm.
When deciding whether a person used reasonable force, consider all the circumstances as they were known to and appeared to the person and consider what a reasonable person in a similar situation with similar knowledge would have believed. If the person’s beliefs were reasonable, the danger does not need to have actually existed.
Being charged with an assault is incredibly serious now and into the future if convicted. Hire an attorney who understands the law, the defenses, and can help you avoid the harshest consequences.