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Everyone has the right to defend themselves. If someone tries to hurt you or your family, you are justified in fighting back and using force to protect yourself. It’s a widely accepted principle in the justice system. Unfortunately, defending yourself can sometimes go too far, and you could end up killing your attacker.
This doesn’t mean that you will automatically be charged with murder or sent to jail. Defendants are permitted to claim the act was done in self-defense. However, every state has a different take on what constitutes as self-defense and when it can be claimed. Regardless, you have to show the court that you were just defending yourself against someone hostile and that the force you utilized was justified to repel the attack.
No matter the circumstances. If you are facing murder charges, we highly recommend you seek out the services of an experienced murder defense attorney in Los Angeles.
How Does California Treat Self-Defense Killings?
According to California’s self-defense laws, a person cannot be charged or found guilty of murder or a violent crime if said action was done to protect oneself or another person. However, the conduct should be judged as “reasonable under the circumstances.”
The act of killing another individual is legally referred to as a homicide. It’s treated as one of the more severe crimes. Homicide is considered to be murder if it’s conducted with “malice aforethought.” If there’s no malice, the crime is categorized as either voluntary manslaughter or involuntary manslaughter.
There are also types of homicide that are not considered a crime at all. In California, excusable homicide and justifiable homicide are regarded as non-criminal. The former happens when an individual kills someone without meaning to in the midst of conducting legal behavior.
Meanwhile, death in the latter can be intentional, but the reason is good enough that the law will not punish the perpetrator.
Penal Code 197 PC touches on justifiable homicide committed by an ordinary citizen. Self-defense is one of the most common forms of justifiable homicide. The majority of states allow justified homicide when someone is defending themselves or another person from threats of crimes like armed robbery, murder, and rape
However, the defendant has to prove their actions were “reasonable under the circumstances.” This means you have to prove that you:
- Reasonably thought you were in impending danger of being injured, killed, or unlawfully touched,
- Reasonably thought you had to use force to stop the danger, and
- The force you used was enough to prevent the danger from happening.
What Is the Penalty for Homicide in California?
The term homicide is used to refer to the killing of another individual, regardless of whether it’s lawful or unlawful. The term encompasses justifiable killings, manslaughter, and murder.
Under California Penal Code 187, the penalty for homicide depends on what you have been convicted of—capital murder, first-degree murder or second-degree murder.
- Capital Murder: As the most serious of charges under the state’s murder law, the punishment is either the death penalty (via lethal injection or the gas chamber) or be imprisoned for life without the possibility of parole (LWOP).
- First-Degree Murder: A conviction could land you anywhere from 25 years to life imprisonment in a state prison. However, if your conviction was due to a “hate crime,” you could face a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
- Second-Degree Murder: Being convicted of this crime can lead to a 15-year prison term or life imprisonment. But certain circumstances, like killing someone in a “drive-by-shooting,” killing a police officer or having a previous murder conviction, can increase your sentence anywhere from 25-years to life without parole.
It should be emphasized that excusable and justifiable homicide is not punishable. If the homicide is proven to fall under the two categories, the charges against the defendant should be dismissed, or the accused be completely acquitted and discharged.
How Do You Prove It Was Self-Defense?
Self-defense has been utilized as a legal defense in some crimes. The issue of self-defense comes up when a defendant acted with either the intent of causing the death of another individual or taking part in an action that resulted in that individual’s death. Examples of self-defense include fighting back with weapons or your fist or shooting someone to protect themselves and causing the death of someone else in the process.
However, these actions or the force used in these actions should be justified. This means the defendant believes within reason that their actions were necessary to prevent being killed, kidnapped, raped, or receiving serious bodily injuries.
The burden of proof in self-defense cases lies on the prosecutor. If the evidence supports a self-defense legal angle, the prosecutor has to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the action taken was not applicable or necessary.
Difference Between Murder, Manslaughter & Self-Defense
People are often confused by the differences between murder, manslaughter, and self-defense. But for those facing those charges, they are the difference between spending 20 years in jail to being incarcerated for the rest of their lives.
The primary difference between murder, manslaughter, and self-defense is intent. Murder requires malice aforethought. This means you planned the death and executed it. Meanwhile, manslaughter has no malice aforethought. There was no premeditation and you never considered killing. The death occurred either during the heat of the moment, or you were negligent.
However, self-defense is when death was caused by a justified use of force. In a perfect self-defense claim, the defendant believes that the action taken or force used was needed or reasonable in order to protect themselves or a third party. The defendant is not involved in any wrongdoing.
In an imperfect self-defense claim, the defendant operated under an unreasonable belief that deadly force was required. It can be claimed that there was bad behavior on the part of the defendant.
Contact Experienced Criminal Defense Counsel
Did you kill someone in self-defense? Determining whether you were justified in what you did will depend on the details of the case. You will need the services of an excellent criminal defense lawyer in LA who can give you solid advice on the legalities of the situation and what steps you should take. The attorneys at Simmrin Law Group can put together a sound legal strategy to help you keep your freedom. Call (310) 997-4688 or fill out out contact form to schedule a FREE consultation.