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Your rights for defending yourself in California

No matter where you live, it’s a good idea to be prepared in case of robbery or assault.

There are a number of ways you may be able to avoid being in dangerous situations. However, it’s also important to be aware of California laws surrounding self-defense in case a threatening circumstance arises.

Avoiding Danger

While there is no absolute way to avoid danger, practicing these tips may help:

  • Walk with another person or a group at all times — especially during evening hours
  • Let a family member or friend know where you will be and when you expect to be home
  • Make sure your cellphone is fully charged before leaving your home and always have it within reach. Bring a portable charger with you if you think you may need it
  • Stay in well-lit or heavily traveled areas — avoiding parks, alleys, vacant lots and wooded areas
  • Always be vigilant of your surroundings
  • Keep on sidewalks and close to the curb, where you are furthest away from doorways, bushes and other hidden spaces.
  • Do not speak with strangers
  • Avoid handling too many items or items that are too heavy to carry
  • Avoid showing large amounts of cash or expensive accessories

Practicing self-defense

California recognizes the "castle doctrine" in an individual’s home or in a place of business. This allows a victim to use deadly force against anyone in these places without assessment of the intruder's ability to use deadly or nonlethal force.

For individuals protecting personal property in California, there is no requirement for the property owner to attempt to retreat from the situation in order to legally use self-defense.

However, in public spaces, any force used against an intruder should be proportionate to the harm reasonably feared and threatened individuals should take opportunities to retreat from the scene if possible.

According with the Judicial Council of California, the right to use force in self-defense or defense of another party also ends if the attacker withdraws or becomes incapable of inflicting injury.

Contact an attorney to learn more

These are just a few guiding principles to keep in mind if you are involved in a threatening situation. If you have further questions about self-defense laws in specific situations, contact an attorney to learn more. A lawyer can also provide information about related issues, such as when it is appropriate to use a firm arm, how to file a personal injury case or what types of circumstances may constitute self-defense.

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