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Self-defense is a valid defense against serious criminal charges in California. If you have been charged with a crime in California, then you should reach out to a criminal defense attorney at My Rights Law now. My Rights Law has a track record of success in cases similar to yours. We will carefully review the accusations against you and work hard to defend you. Get started by calling My Rights Law at (888) 702-8882 or filling out our secure web form to set up a free consultation.

As we all know, you are innocent until proven guilty, which goes for anyone charged with assault. Sometimes, the police come to the scene of a physical altercation and leave with the wrong person in custody. If you feel the same way about your arrest, you may have been using self-defense. Being arrested for self-defense is many people’s worst nightmare. It was also one of the worst fears of our founding fathers. You should never need to withstand physical abuse from someone because you fear that you will be arrested instead. If this does occur, you may wish to have a skilled defense attorney who will articulate your story clearly and convincingly. Read on to learn more about how to apply the principles of self-defense to the criminal charges against you.

What Is Self-Defense?

Self-defense[1] may seem like an explanatory term, but it has its limitations. You can lawfully defend yourself or someone else from imminent physical harm by another. If this means physical force that results in injury to the assailant, you shouldn’t be held guilty or liable for these injuries. If someone punches you and you punch them back, you shouldn’t be arrested if it breaks their nose. However, self-defense must be proportional- you can’t pull out a gun and shoot someone for pinching you. It would help if you considered the relative sizes and strengths of the parties. For example, a 6’3” 200-pound man is usually not justified in beating up a 5’2” 130-pound woman for slapping him. These distinctions can be discrete, so you should review your case’s facts with a criminal defense attorney.

If you kill someone in defense, you use what is known as “deadly force.” Deadly force isn’t appropriate to defend property but can be used to defend against rape and attempted murder. You also generally can’t claim self-defense if the attacks you were defending against were verbal. Unless the person said something that made you reasonably believe they would harm you or someone else, a verbal assault isn’t grounds for physical self-defense. As you see, self-defense is a more nuanced topic than it appears at first glance. If you have been arrested and charged with a crime, telling the police that it was self-defense may not be enough. A skilled defense attorney can help get the message across that you were only defending yourself and are therefore not guilty.

Imperfect Self-Defense

With all the requirements described above, it’s no wonder that people sometimes use too much force for an ideal self-defense argument. However, there may be a partial defense called “imperfect self-defense” available when it comes to certain charges. Imperfect self-defense is only applicable against murder[2] and attempted murder charges. If someone can prove they were using imperfect self-defense under the circumstances, their charges may be reduced to manslaughter. Manslaughter lacks the malicious intent component of murder and therefore comes with much less harsh penalty guidelines. If you are facing murder or attempted murder charges, you should at least explore the possibility of defending yourself using the doctrine of imperfect self-defense.

Imperfect self-defense is also referred to as the “Flannel Doctrine[3] in California. There are three requirements to apply the Flannel defense against murder charges here:

  1. The defendant’s beliefs, if true, must have justified the actions.
  2. The victim must have been displaying unlawful aggression. For example, this defense wouldn’t apply if the victim caught the defendant breaking into their car or home.
  3. The court should take into consideration the defendant’s background and the circumstances surrounding their actions.

Remember that the Flannel doctrine only reduces charges, not dismisses them. This could still save you years, if not decades, in prison. Flannel doctrine is best applied by a defense attorney with experience and ingenuity. Otherwise, a Flannel defense could have little to no effect on your sentencing. Don’t hesitate to broaden your search if you don’t feel you have found the right defense attorney for you yet.

I Struck First. Can I Claim Self-Defense?

Just because you were the first to strike doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t claim self-defense. A broad set of circumstances could make it reasonable for you to believe that it was necessary to use physical force to defend yourself. In other words, you don’t need to wait until someone attacks you to defend yourself. It just might take a more skillful attorney to make the court see that.

One of the most common self-defense arguments we see is that the other party raised their fist or did something else that made our client believe they would be attacked. Or, the other party might physically attack our client first in a way that is undetectable by the time police arrive. You may have had a history of physical altercations with the other party, and whatever they said to you was an adequate provocation for physical defense. The possibilities are endless. Our team will pore over every detail to find the evidence that exonerates you from your charges.

Home Invasion Self-Defense

One of the scariest places you can have to defend yourself is your own home. Your home is the place you’re supposed to feel safest. However, there’s always the risk someone could break in to steal your things- or worse. Most states’ laws try to respect that people should feel in charge of their own homes’ safety. California uses castle doctrine[4] when it comes to home invasion self-defense. Under Castle doctrine, you do not have to retreat if someone breaks into your home. Your home is your castle. You can use deadly force against someone who has entered unlawfully and forcibly. The fact that someone has broken into your home creates a reasonable fear of imminent harm. This defense only applies inside your own home. Arguing self-defense will require clear and convincing articulation. Your attorney needs to be just as confident that you were defending yourself as you are. Write down every detail you can remember about the incident so that you can relay it to your attorney before your memory is tainted.

Defense Attorneys With The Dedication And Expertise To Defend Your Case

If self-defense is a relevant defense to the charges you’re up against, you can’t trust just anybody with your case. Not all criminal defense attorneys are the same. Ideally, your defense attorney will be well-versed in California criminal law. Additionally, they should have working relationships with the prosecutors and judges in local circuits. You also want someone who is a shrewd negotiator that won’t let any detail go unnoticed. My Rights Law offers this all and more. Our team will make you feel confident in your choice of defense representation every step of the way. Our legal team includes not just our knowledgeable attorneys but our dedicated paralegals and staff. You can get a sense of what we have to offer as a legal team with no risk or obligation—call (888) 702-8882 or leave a message on our secure web form to schedule your free consultation with one of our experienced California defense lawyers today.

[1] Cornell Legal Information Institute: Self-Defense.
[2] California Penal Code 187.
[3] People v. Flannel , 25 Cal.3d 668.
[4] California Penal Code 198.5.

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