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California Home Defense: What are your rights to protect your family and property?

If an intruder breaks into your home, especially at night, it is legally presumed that the resident fears for their life. The suspect entering the home is key.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California’s so-called “castle doctrine” is the law that is applied to self-defense inside a person’s home -- allowing residents to protect themselves and others with the use of deadly force inside their homes or businesses.

Sacramento attorney Donald Heller, 78, has practiced law for more than 40 years. He worked as a prosecutor, a U.S. Attorney, and is currently a private practice defense attorney. He helped explain the rights individuals have to protect themselves on their own private property.

In general, Heller says a person may use reasonable force to defend themselves on their own private property when they believe an intruder may cause them harm.

“Your home is your castle,” in the eyes of California law, Heller said. 

If an intruder breaks into your home, especially at night, it is legally presumed that the resident fears for their life.

“You could use deadly force to protect yourself,” Heller added. 

The circumstances are different if the person is outside your home but on your private property. A person has a right to stand their ground and defend with force if reasonably necessary. Although, Heller says there is a serious risk to that including injury, lawsuits, and even potential criminal charges.

“If someone is outside of your home, you stay in your home with your deadly weapon, call 911, and hope the police show up promptly,” Heller said. 

Heller says self-defense should be a last resort option. He explains preventative measures like locking your doors, closing your windows, and considering an alarm can go a long way to prevent would-be intruders.\

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