California's Right to Defend Other People
Non-Homicide Cases / Homicide Cases
A defendant charged with an assaultive crime may assert in defense that he reasonably believed his actions were necessary to defend another person against an apparent threat of unlawful and immediate violence from another (Regina v. Prince).
Under California law, a defendant may defend third persons from an assault type crimes if:
- The defendant reasonably believed that someone else was imminent danger of suffering bodily injury from an assailant, and
- The defendant reasonably believed that the immediate use of force was necessary to defend against that danger, and
- The defendant used no more force than was necessary to defend against that danger (Calcrim 3470)
Belief in future harm to another person is not sufficient to be privileged to use force against a prospective assailant, no matter how great or how likely the harm is believed to be. The defendant must have believed there was imminent danger of violence to someone else.
Also, If the defendant used more force than was reasonable, the defendant did not act in lawful defense of another person.
In deciding whether the defendant's beliefs were reasonable, all the circumstances as they were known to the defendant at the time of defending another person are considered. A reasonable person is in this situation is objective view. This means that if the another person in a similar situation with similar knowledge would have acted in the same way then the defendant was privileged to defend another person against an assailant. If the defendant's beliefs were reasonable, the danger does not need to have actually existed.
The defendant's belief that someone else was threatened may be reasonable even if he or she relied on information that was not true. However, the defendant must actually and reasonably have believed that the information was true.
[If you find that <insert name of victim> threatened or harmed the defendant [or others] in the past, you may consider that information in deciding whether the defendant's conduct and beliefs were reasonable.
A defendant in California is entitled to stand his or her ground and defend another person, and if reasonably necessary, to pursue an assailant until the danger to a third person has passed.
The People have the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not act in lawful defense of another.
Justifiable Homicide While Defending Others:
he defendant is not guilty of murder, manslaughter, attempted murder, attempted voluntary manslaughter, if he or she was justified in killing, or attempting to kill, someone in defense of another person.
When a defendant uses deadly force to defend a third person, and the force used by the defendant actually caused death, the defendant may never the less be entitled to an acquittal of murder or manslaughter charges if the defendant was defending a member of his family or household at the time that he or she used deadly force against an assailant.
In order to use the defense of others in homicide cases, the defendant must reasonably believe that someone else was in imminent danger of being killed or suffering great bodily injury. The defendant must also reasonably believe that the immediate use of deadly force was necessary to defend against that danger. Finally, the defendant must use no more force than was reasonably necessary to defend against that danger. In determining reasonableness see Non-Homicide Cases.
Imperfect Defense of Others:
If the defendant kills another person and at the time of the killing the defendant genuinely believed that the other person needed defense, but the defendant's belief is unreasonable, the defendant is entitled to a reduction of murder charges to manslaughter. This is known as imperfect defense of others.
Of course, if the defendant did not have a genuine belief that a third person needed defense, and the defendant kills another person in the name of defending another person, then the defendant is not entitled to the defense of others and murder charges are proper.
To learn more about the defense of others contact the criminal defense attorneys at Dorado & Dorado, APLC. Our attorneys are available twenty-four hours a day to answer all of your criminal defense and criminal procedure questions. Our initial consultations are provided at no cost to the accused. Call today!
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