A home intruder situation is frightening and dangerous for a homeowner.
Early Friday morning, an Elk Grove resident found two suspects breaking into his house and vehicles. With his family- including a baby- in the home, he decided to take matters into his own hands.
He grabbed a shotgun and let out a shot, sending the suspects sprinting away from the scene.
The homeowner didn't harm anyone with the shot, but if he did, would it be legally justified?
California doesn’t have a ‘Stand Your Ground’ law like Florida, which was widely discussed after the death of Trayvon Martin.
But it does have a similar law called the Castle Doctrine (CA Penal Code Section 198.5) which allows the use of deadly force by a homeowner if someone forces or breaks their way into their house unlawfully. The homeowner must fear imminent death or great bodily injury towards themselves or their family in order to justify deadly force.
In addition, the California Criminal Jury Instructions (CALCRIM) allows a jury to acquit someone of homicide based on the Castle Doctrine under CALCRIM #505 & #506.
Both laws define justifiable homicide, but #505 refers to self-defense using deadly force outside the home, while #506 refers to use of deadly force in the case of an unlawful home entry.
In both cases, CALCRIM states a defendant doesn't have to retreat from an assailant and can even chase them down until the danger has passed.
But defining a justifiable situation may get sticky.
CALCRIM clearly states a person must prove that they or their family were in immediate danger of death or great harm, not potential or future harm. A defendant must prove they felt a home intruder had the intent to harm in order to not get charged with manslaughter or homicide.
Under confusing or unexpected circumstances, a situation may be difficult to read.
CALCRIM, also states a defendant would need to react in a way a 'reasonable' person would under the circumstances with the belief of immediate danger. A person doesn't necessarily have to be right about their belief, they just have to prove to a jury their belief was genuine.