Defending Your Home: Self-Defense or Punishable Offense?

Defending Your Home: Self-Defense or Punishable Offense?

It’s any homeowner’s worst nightmare, the thought of someone breaking into your home while your loved ones sleep. Its dark, you’re woken up from a dead sleep and terrified. You grab your gun and make your way towards the foreign noises coming from your living room…you see a dark figure who turns towards you when you enter the room. What do you do?

  • Shoot first out of fear that this intrusive stranger is willing to harm you or your family.
  • Wait to see if their intentions are harmful to your person or family or if they are just there to abscond with your property.

With an over-whelming 1 out of 3 Americans being firearm owners, it’s safe to assume that most people wouldn’t wait for the trespasser to make their intentions clear.

Fortunately for homeowners, California is one of 28 states that has adopted the “Castle Doctrine”, also known as the “California Homeowner’s Bill of Rights”, a statute very similar to the “Stand Your Ground” law made popular by the State of Florida v. George Zimmerman case in July, 2013.

In regards to using lethal force against an intruder in your house, California Penal Code 198.5 states:

“When committed in defense of habitation, property, or person, against one who manifestly intends or endeavors, by violence or surprise, to commit a felony, or against one who manifestly intends and endeavors, in a violent, riotous or tumultuous manner, to enter the habitation of another for the purpose of offering violence to any person therein;”

So what does this mean?

You are allowed by law to use lethal force against someone trespassing inside your home as long as:

  • You believe there is an imminent danger to your life, or the life of a family member also inside the home at the time of the break-in.
  • You only used the amount of force necessary to defend yourself and family against the threat of harm.
  • You believed that immediate action was necessary to protect yourself and your family.

The Castle Doctrine does not however, cover incidents of violence against intruders outside of your home. This includes in your driveway, on your porch, or within the confines of your yard.

It also does not protect you if you commit an act of violence against someone to merely prevent someone from taking your property, or while they are fleeing. A bullet wound in the back is a hard thing to explain to law enforcement and prosecutors, even if the intruder was inside of your home.

So how do homeowner’s prove that they were fearful enough to use lethal force?

Under the California Bill of Homeowner’s Rights, actual danger doesn’t have to exist, just the reasonable fear of danger or threat to a person or family member’s life.

Under California law, it is a fair assumption that anyone breaking into your home with force has malicious intentions, and the fear of having an intruder in your home is enough to justify protecting yourself and family with a firearm or weapon.

What to do if you shoot someone in your home?

Hopefully you will never be faced with this scenario. But if you are, try and follow the below suggestions to protect yourself, both physically and legally:

  • If you aren’t sure whether the intruder is alive or not, leave your home and call 911 from a safe place.
  • Be mindful that 911 calls are always recorded. Be as detail-free as possible while still providing pertinent details. Let the operator know that there has been a break in as well as a shooting and to send help.
  • It is highly likely that law enforcement will want to question you very shortly after the incident. Even if you feel you’ve done no wrong you should contact our criminal defense attorney to be present with you during the course of investigation.

While you do have the right to defend yourself, your family and your home, shooting an intruder in your home can make you vulnerable to both criminal charges and civil suits. Shield Criminal Defense Law employs attorneys well-versed in the rights of homeowner’s, who can be there with you during the interrogation process. If you have questions on your rights as a homeowner, or if you need a Los Angeles defense attorney to help navigate you through the emotionally trying process that follows harming an intruder during the course of a break-in, give us a call at (213) 514-8732.

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