The laws governing the legal use, storage, carrying and transporting of firearms are constantly changing. Below are the applicable laws in the State of California as of 7/23/2013. The below information is designed to be a guide and not the final word. If you have specific questions, please refer to California legislation at leginfo.ca.gov. If you have any specific questions concerning Castle Doctrine/self-defense laws in any state, American Firearms Training recommends contacting an attorney.
The Castle Doctrine (also known as Castle Law, Defense of Habitat Law) are state legal defense laws that gives citizens in their homes/abode, and in some states, cars or workplaces the right to protect themselves, other people, and their property by force, in some instances even deadly force without the consequences of legal and civil responsibility or criminal persecution. A Castle Doctrine also states that a person has no “duty of retreat” (avoid the conflict at all cost) when one’s home/abode is under attack.
Some states will include in there Castle Law a “Stand Your Ground” clause (also sometimes known as a “Make My Day” clause). This clause removes the “duty of retreat” even outside of one’s home (car, work, where one is allowed to possess a firearm).
The State of California does have a Castle Law variation. This law can be viewed below.
California Penal Code 198.5.
Any person using force intended or likely to cause death orgreat bodily injury within his or her residence shall be presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or greatbodily injury to self, family, or a member of the household when that force is used against another person, not a member of the family or household, who unlawfully and forcibly enters or has unlawfully and forcibly entered the residence and the person using the force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry occurred. As used in this section, great bodily injury means a significant or substantial physical injury.
When deciding whether the defendant’s beliefs were reasonable, consider all the circumstances as they were known to and appeared to the defendant and consider what a reasonable person in a similar situation with similar knowledge would have believed. If the defendant’s beliefs were reasonable, the danger does not need to have actually existed.
NOTE: California does not have a "Stand Your Ground" clause on the books, but the state does have jury directions affirming the defendant has no duty to retreat in defined situations. These directions can be viewed below.
CA 505. Justifiable Homicide: Self-Defense or Defense of Another
The defendant is not guilty of (murder/ [or] manslaughter/ attempted murder/ [or] attempted voluntary manslaughter) if (he/ she) was justified in (killing/attempting to kill) someone in (self- defense/ [or] defense of another). The defendant acted in lawful (self-defense/ [or] defense of another) if:
1. The defendant reasonably believed that (he/she/ [or] someone else/ [or] <insert name or description of third party>) was in imminent danger of being killed or suffering great bodily injury [or was in imminent danger of being (raped/maimed/robbed/ <insert other forcible and atrocious crime>)];
2. The defendant reasonably believed that the immediate use of deadly force was necessary to defend against that danger;
3. The defendant 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 defendant must have believed there was imminent danger of death or great bodily injury to (himself/herself/ [or] someone else). Defendant’s belief must have been reasonable and (he/she) must have acted only because of that belief. The defendant is only entitled to use that amount of force that a reasonable person would believe is necessary in the same situation. If the defendant used more force than was reasonable, the [attempted] killing was not justified.
[The defendant’s belief that (he/she/ [or] someone else) was threatened may be reasonable even if (he/she) relied on information that was not true. However, the defendant must actually and reasonably have believed that the information was true.]
[If you find that <insert name of decedent/victim> threatened or harmed the defendant [or others] in the past, you may consider that information in deciding whether the defendant’s conduct and beliefs were reasonable.]
[If you find that the defendant knew that <insert name of decedent/victim> had threatened or harmed others in the past, you may consider that information in deciding whether the defendant’s conduct and beliefs were reasonable.]
[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.]
[If you find that the defendant received a threat from someone else that (he/she) reasonably associated with <insert name of decedent/victim>, you may consider that threat in deciding whether the defendant was justified in acting in (self-defense/ [or] defense of another).]
[A defendant 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/great bodily injury/ <insert forcible and atrocious crime>) has passed. This is so even if safety could have been achieved by retreating.]
[Great bodily injury means significant or substantial physical injury. It is an injury that is greater than minor or moderate harm.]
The People have the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the [attempted] killing was not justified. If the People have not met this burden, you must find the defendant not guilty of (murder/ [or] manslaughter/ attempted murder/ [or] attempted voluntary manslaughter).