Prosecutors often charge citizens with an assault or even murder, when the person was doing what came naturally, defending him or herself. For persons reading this page due to a criminal charge alleging a crime of violence, it is important to understand the right of self defense.
Long Beach criminal defense attorney Matthew Kaestner is your best defense in court if you find yourself charged in Long Beach or the surrounding courts with a crime of violence. Mr. Kaestner has extensive experience defending persons charged with violent crimes from simple assault to first degree murder. Mr. Kaestner can be contacted directly at (562) 437-0200.
In 2013-2014, Long Beach criminal attorney Kaestner defended a man in Los Angeles raising self defense to charges of murder. The District Attorney unsuccessfully tried at three jury trials to convict attorney Kaestner’s client of murder for killing his cellmate at the county jail. The client was convicted only of manslaughter and avoided a life sentence. (People v. Sirrell M., Case No. BA388607-01.)
For over 25 years, attorney Kaestner has successfully raised self defense to charges of murder, as well as to charges of felony and misdemeanor assault.
What follows is a brief synopsis of self defense law in the State of California.
It is lawful for a person who reasonably believes he is being attacked or about to be attacked to use all force and means that would appear reasonably necessary to prevent the attack. Actual danger is not necessary to justify self defense if a person is confronted by the appearance of danger that causes him, and would cause a reasonable person, to believe an attack is imminent.
A person in reasonable fear of an attack may use that force that is reasonable under the circumstances. Thus, an assault with fists does not justify the person assaulted to use deadly force, unless the person assaulted reasonably believes that the assault with fists is likely to cause great bodily injury or death.
On the other hand California law presumes a person to have "reasonable fear of great bodily injury or death" when a person is confronted by an intruder entering or in one's home. However, as a general rule, a person who is not be in fear of great bodily injury or death still has the right to exercise self defense. A lesser danger only justifies a lesser response.
California is a “stand your ground” state as the phrase is often used. Thus, a person threatened with an attack doesn’t have to retreat and may stand his ground and defend himself with all force as is reasonably necessary to repel the attack. In fact a person may even pursue an attacker if it is necessary to secure safety, even if safety is more easily achieved by running away.
In Court, evidence of an alleged victim’s violent character may introduced to show that on prior occasions he has threatened or assaulted others. It is also true that a person who has been previously threatened or assaulted by an alleged victim may act more quickly and take harsher measures than a person who hadn't been previously threatened or assaulted by the attacker.
The right of self defense ends when the attacker is disabled or when the danger ceases. A claim of self defense cannot be made by a person who starts an argument or fight in order to create the apparent need for self defense. Self defense is also not available to persons who engage in a violent confrontation by prearrangement, mutual consent, or an express or implied agreement to fight.
The above principles of self defense apply equally to the defense of other persons. The law formerly limited this right to defending only family members. Now, the law allows the defense of any person who is being unlawfully attacked.
The lawful owner or occupant of real property has the right to request a trespasser to leave the premises. The trespasser who refuses to leave within a reasonable period of time can be ejected with that amount of force that is necessary to prevent damage to property or injury to the lawful occupants.
Reasonable force may also be used in the defense of one's personal property, as long as the force is not excessive or unjustified.
When a person is injured or killed during a violent confrontation, the government is often quick to point the finger of guilt at the party who by defending himself caused the injury or death. A grieving family or injured victim can place substantial pressure on the government to punish the person responsible even if his actions were justified. The prosecution will often let sympathy overcome common sense.
Long Beach criminal attorney, Matthew Kaestner, has successfully defended clients charged with murder, attempted murder, and assault, by raising self defense. Victories for clients charged with violent crimes have come during many jury trials, as well as through outright dismissals short of trial. Attorney Kaestner understands that raising self defense successfully requires experience, preparation, and meticulous attention to detail. Mr. Kaestner can be contacted directly at (562) 437-0200.