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Legal - Self Defense

CA Penal Codes – Self Defense

The following are taken from standard California Criminal Jury Instructions which are read to juries in any criminal case involving a claim of self-defense.

This information was provided by the Butte County District Attorney for educational purposes only. This is not to be construed as legal advice, Always consult your own attorney.

Click Here to download as a PDF file

506. Justifiable Homicide: Defending Against Harm to Person Within Home or on Property
The defendant is not guilty of (murder/ [or] manslaughter/attempted murder/ [or]
attempted voluntary manslaughter) if (he/she) (killed/attempted to kill) to defend
(himself/herself) [or any other person] in the defendant’s home. Such (a/an) [attempted]
killing is justified, and therefore not unlawful, if:
1. The defendant reasonably believed that (he/she) was defending a home against
__________, who (intended to or tried to commit
__________/ [or] violently[[,] [or] riotously
[,]/ [or] tumultuously] tried to enter that home intending to commit an act of
violence against someone inside);
2. The defendant reasonably believed that the danger was imminent;
3. The defendant reasonably believed that the use of deadly force was necessary to
defend against the danger;
AND
4. The defendant used no more force than was reasonably necessary to defend
against the 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 violence 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, then the [attempted]
killing was not justified.
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.
[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/bodily injury/__________) has
passed. This is so even if safety could have been achieved by retreating.]
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 [attempted] (murder/ [or] manslaughter

3470. Right to Self-Defense or Defense of Another (Non-Homicide)
Self-defense is a defense to ______________________ charged>. The defendant is not guilty of (that/those crime[s]) if (he/she) used force against
the other person in lawful (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]
__________) was in imminent danger of suffering
bodily injury [or was in imminent danger of being touched unlawfully];
2. The defendant reasonably believed that the immediate use of force was
necessary to defend against that danger;
AND
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 bodily
injury to (himself/herself/ [or] someone else)/[or] an imminent danger that (he/she/[or]
someone else) would be touched unlawfully). Defendant’s belief must have been reasonable
and (he/she) must have acted 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 defendant did not act
in lawful (self-defense/ [or] defense of another).
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.
[The slightest touching can be unlawful if it is done in a rude or angry way. Making
contact with another person, including through his or her clothing, is enough. The
touching does not have to cause pain or injury of any kind.]
[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 __________ 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 __________ 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 __________, 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/bodily injury/__________) has passed. This is so even if
safety could have been achieved by retreating.]
The People have the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did
not act in lawful (self-defense/ [or] defense of another). If the People have not met this
burden, you must find the defendant not guilty of __________.

3471. Right to Self-Defense: Mutual Combat or Initial Aggressor
A person who engages in mutual combat or who starts a fight has a right to self-defense
only if:
1. (He/She) actually and in good faith tried to stop fighting;
[AND]
2. (He/She) indicated, by word or by conduct, to (his/her) opponent, in a way that a
reasonable person would understand, that (he/she) wanted to stop fighting and
that (he/she) had stopped fighting(;/.)

[AND
3. (He/She) gave (his/her) opponent a chance to stop fighting.]
If the defendant meets these requirements, (he/she) then had a right to self-defense if the
opponent continued to fight.
[However, if the defendant used only non-deadly force, and the opponent responded with
such sudden and deadly force that the defendant could not withdraw from the fight, then
the defendant had the right to defend (himself/herself) with deadly force and was not
required to try to stop fighting(,/ or) communicate the desire to stop to the opponent[, or
give the opponent a chance to stop fighting].]
[A fight is mutual combat when it began or continued by mutual consent or agreement.
That agreement may be expressly stated or implied and must occur before the claim to
self-defense arose.]

3472. Right to Self-Defense: May Not Be Contrived
A person does not have the right to self-defense if he or she provokes a fight or quarrel with the intent to create an excuse to use force.

3475. Right to Eject Trespasser From Real Property
The (owner/lawful occupant) of a (home/property) may request that a trespasser leave the
(home/property). If the trespasser does not leave within a reasonable time and it would
appear to a reasonable person that the trespasser poses a threat to (the (home/property)/
[or] the (owner/ [or] occupants), the (owner/lawful occupant) may use reasonable force to
make the trespasser leave.
Reasonable force means the amount of force that a reasonable person in the same situation
would believe is necessary to make the trespasser leave.
[If the trespasser resists, the (owner/lawful occupant)may increase the amount of force he
or she uses in proportion to the force used by the trespasser and the threat the trespasser
poses to the property.]
When deciding whether the defendant used reasonable force, 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.
The People have the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant used
more force than was reasonable. If the People have not met this burden, you must find the
defendant not guilty of __________.

3476. Right to Defend Real or Personal Property
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/guest/master/servant/ward) 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 the defendant used reasonable force, 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.
The People have the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant used more
force than was reasonable to protect property from imminent harm. If the People have not met
this burden, you must find the defendant not guilty of __________.