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Reviewing California's justifiable homicide law

Some in Redding mat scoff at the notion of self-defense being a justification for violent action. This line of thinking no doubt comes from the assumption that any person who comes out the victor in an altercation cannot entirely be innocent in terms of its initiation. However, even law enforcement authorities recognize that there are indeed legitimate cases where the use of force (even deadly force) is justified. Indeed, according to information shared by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, there were 782 cases of justifiable homicide reported in 2017 (353 of which involved private citizens). 

One might wonder what California's policies are when it comes to self-defense. Section 197 of the California Penal Code states that homicide is considered justifiable in the following situations: 

  • When resisting an attempt made by another to murder or seriously injure another, or to commit a felony 
  • When defending one's home, property or person from another who intends or endeavors (either by violence or surprise) to commit a felony or who attempts in a violent, riotous or tumultuous manner to enter a habitation with the purpose of causing harm to those therein
  • When committed while attempting to apprehend a person (by law ways and means) who has committed a felony, to suppress a riot or otherwise lawfully preserve the peace
  • When committed in the defense of oneself or their spouse, children, parents, master, mistress or servent to halt the commission of a felony or any act intended to cause great bodily harm or injury  

In the final scenario, lethal action is only viewed as justified only if the one who used it did indeed (in good faith) attempt to avoid any further struggle prior to such action being warranted. 

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