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Castle Doctrine

Penal Code 198.5 PC - The "Castle Doctrine"

California Penal Code 198.5 PC codifies the Castle Doctrine, which says that residents are presumed to have a reasonable fear of great bodily injury or death if an intruder forcibly enters their home. Thus, it might be considered justifiable homicide if the resident injures or kills the intruder in self-defense. This law is related to stand your ground laws.

Penal Code 198.5 PC - The "Castle Doctrine"
The Castle Doctrine says that residents can use force against intruders who enter their home.

Simply put, this statute details California's Castle Doctrine that says people in their homes may lawfully injure or kill intruders in their home if the intruder or burglar unlawfully and forcibly enters or attempts to enter the residence and the resident reasonably believed they illegally and forcibly entered or were in the process of entering the residence.

Notably, the intruder can't be a household or family member. California law presumes that residents have a reasonable fear of imminent peril or death when someone unlawfully enters their home.

In this situation, it might be a justifiable homicide if the resident kills the intruder. The resident does not have to show the court that the intruder had a weapon, made threats, or was attacking.

Under the Castle Doctrine, an unenclosed front porch is not considered a residence. This means that if an intruder came onto an unenclosed front porch with violent intent, this law would not apply because they have not yet attempted to enter the home.

If the resident injured or killed the intruder on the porch, then there is no legal presumption that the resident reasonably feared that any members of the home would be injured or killed. This means the resident must claim the traditional self-defense argument to justify using force against the intruder.

What Does the Law Say?

Penal Code 198.5 PC says, "Any person using force intended or likely to cause death or great bodily injury within his or her residence shall be presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily injury to self, family, or a member of the household when that force is used against another person, not a member of the family or household, who unlawfully and forcibly enters or has unlawfully and forcibly entered the residence and the person using the force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry occurred. This section states that great bodily injury means a significant physical injury."

Castle Doctrine - Quick Facts

  • The Castle Doctrine is defined under California Penal Code 198.5 PC.
  • California gives you the legal right to defend your home with deadly force.
  • This law is related to the "stand-your-ground" law.
  • There is no duty to retreat if you encounter an intruder inside your home.
  • This law gives residents the right to exercise reasonable force, up to and including deadly force, to defend against an intruder in their home.
  • The Castle Doctrine is the legal principle in which residents are presumed to have a reasonable fear of death or great bodily injury if an intruder forcibly enters their home.
  • It could be deemed a justifiable homicide if the resident kills or injures the intruder in self-defense.
  • The "intruder" does not include people who live in the home.
  • The Castle Doctrine does not apply if the intruder is not inside or trying to enter the residence.
  • The central premise of the Castle Doctrine is that a person has the inherent right to defend their home.
  • The forcible intrusion implies the threat of harm to the residents.
  • The person responding to an intruder was acting in self-defense.
  • The Castle Doctrine involves a "legal presumption" that the resident using deadly force against an intruder is legally presumed to have the benefit of the doubt, even if the intruder is killed in the process.
  • The Castle Doctrine recognizes that all burglaries, home invasions, or similar attempts to enter someone's residence unlawfully create an inherent risk of significant bodily injury or death to the occupants.
  • The first part of the standard self-defense analysis is considered a matter of law, and the degree of threat to the occupants is assumed to be the highest possible: significant bodily injury or death.

What Are the Primary Factors?

While the Castle Doctrine provides legal protection for residents responding to a home invasion, it does not guarantee protection against prosecution. To qualify for the legal presumption under PC 198.5, all of the following factors must be met:

  • The intruder unlawfully and forcibly entered or tried to enter the dwelling.
  • The resident knew or reasonably believed that the intruder was forcibly entering or that they were attempting to do so.
  • The resident used force intended or likely to cause a significant bodily injury or death.
  • The intruder was not a member of the family or household.

What Are the Limitations and Restrictions?

The Castle Doctrine applies strictly to residences and does not extend to other properties, such as a place of business or vehicles. The law also does not apply if the intruder was a police officer carrying out their duties who had first announced their presence and intention to enter.

Also, the Castle Doctrine does not permit residents to pursue an intruder once the immediate threat has been neutralized.

Suppose an intruder flees the property. In that case, the resident cannot chase after them and then use force without facing legal consequences.

While the Castle Doctrine offers legal protection for people defending their homes against intruders, each case is unique. The specific facts and circumstances surrounding the incident will influence how the law is applied.

How Is the Castle Doctrine Different from Stand Your Ground?

The Castle Doctrine and "Stand Your Ground" are self-defense principles but have differences. Consider the following:

  • The Castle Doctrine permits people to use reasonable force, including deadly force, when protecting themselves from intruders in their homes.
  • The Stand Your Ground principle allows for using reasonable force in self-defense anywhere the person is legally present.

While California does not have a specific "stand your ground" law, this right has been confirmed through case law in California courts.

The district attorney may sometimes overcome the presumption with substantial evidence that the resident did not fear imminent harm.

All self-defense cases must be assessed case-by-case, and a jury might have to determine the issues. Contact us for more information. The Hedding Law Firm is based in Los Angeles, CA.

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