That Can't Be the Law!

Roy Ogden, Esq.
Dec 14, 2015

street fight self defense

It is true that In California the law allows a person to kill an assailant in self-defense.

But, are these two statements true or false?

In California, a person claiming self-defense is required to retreat from the assailant if safety could have been achieved by retreating. True or False?

In California, a person claiming self-defense is not permitted to pursue the assailant if safety could have been achieved by retreating. True or False?

It may surprise you to learn that both of the foregoing statements are false!

California’s law on this issue is set forth in the standard Criminal Jury Instructions created by the Judicial Council of California. These instructions are used by California trial courts to instruct their juries on the law to be applied when they decide whether a person lawfully acted in self-defense. Instruction 505 provides that one who kills an assailant in the defense of self or others need not retreat, but may stand one’s ground and defend himself or herself.  More interestingly though, the law allows one to pursue an assailant until the danger has passed if reasonably necessary.

While there are many factors one must consider in the heat of the moment decision whether to stand one’s ground or retreat, it is good to know that the law allows for some flexibility to one defending himself/herself or others as long as one acts reasonably.

The full text of Instruction 505 can be found at: https://www.justia.com/criminal/docs/calcrim/500/505.html

 

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