In the State of California, and in other states, people have the right to protect themselves from harm, in specific situations, even if the action could be considered a crime under different circumstances. In California, a defendant is allowed to claim a crime, even one violent in nature, was done in self defense. Self defense is the right to prevent suffering violence through the use of counteracting violence, but at a sufficient level. Claiming a criminal act was done in self defense can be complicated and best presented in court by a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney.
Understanding the defense of self defense
Presenting the defense of self defense in California means that the defendant does not dispute his or her actions but is claiming those actions were justifiable to stay away from force or violence. This is why self defense is considered in California as an “affirmative defense.” If the defendant, often with the help of a criminal defense attorney, can prove the criminal act was indeed done in self defense, the person could be declared innocent of wrong. To be found innocent of the charge or charges, the defendant must have acted reasonably under the circumstances. Furthermore, the jury must believe the defendant may have been killed or seriously injured if he or she did not defend him or herself. The jury must see the force used as necessary to prevent harm. In California, a person is justified, under the law, to use self defense in a variety of situations. The act of self defense could be used in such situations involving potential assault, battery, rape or murder. For example, say “Jill” is pulling money one late evening from an ATM machine, when a man begins to accost her. The man attempts to force her into his vehicle to steal her money and rape her, when she pulls a gun from her purse and shoots him. The man later dies at the hospital. However, “Jill” acted in self defense and used force to protect herself from impending harm. A criminal defense attorney experienced with using the defense of self defense can prove in court that “Jill” should be acquitted of murder under the circumstances, per California Penal Code 187.
Proving the defense of self defense in California
To be relieved of punishment for his or her actions – through the defense of self defense – the defendant must be found to have harbored a belief that he or she was going to face death or serious physical harm if force was not used. The court must also believe the force used was appropriate to fend off harm. A criminal defense attorney will present evidence on behalf of his or her client to prove beyond reasonable doubt that self defense was necessary. The defense must specifically demonstrate the defendant was in threat of imminent danger if he or she did not use force. To effectively use self defense as a legal defense in California, especially in response to a murder charge, the defense must show the violence was done in response to harmful and offensive force being done by another person and this force likely would have led to death or serious physical harm.
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If you or a loved one are experiencing a criminal investigation or have been arrested and/or charged with a crime in California, but used self defense to halt harm, contact my office today to set up a free consultation.