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Does California have a “stand your ground” law? Well, yes and no (mostly yes). The stand your ground law in California is not codified in any criminal statute.

Nevertheless, California court decisions have essentially written “stand your ground” into California criminal law. Most importantly, California jury instructions include a clear statement of the stand your ground concept. 

Self-Defense and the Use of Force in California

Stand your ground is an expansive interpretation of California’s long-standing right to self-defense in homicide and violent crime cases. Normally it is against the law for you to use  force against someone.

Self-defense and defense of others, however, are affirmative defenses that can get your charges dropped. To defeat a criminal charge, such as a homicide charge, that arises from your use of force (even deadly force), you must prove the following:

  • You reasonably believed that you or someone else was in immediate danger of serious bodily harm or death;
  • You reasonably believed that the use of force was necessary to protect yourself or someone else; and
  • You used only the degree of force necessary to prevent the harm you feared.  

You do not have to prove self-defense or defense of others under a “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard, or any other standard for that matter. 

Rather, in California, once the defendant raises the defense, the burden then is borne by the prosecution to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant did NOT use reasonable self-defense.  

The Stand Your Ground Law in California 

Does California have stand your ground laws? As stated above, yes it does, at least for all practical purposes. Suppose that someone threatens you with bodily harm and you consider whether to use force in self-defense.

Without a stand your ground law, you would have a legal duty to back away from the confrontation if that was the safest choice, even if that meant retreating from room to room in your own home.

A stand your ground law allows you to–just as it sounds–stand your ground. You are legally entitled to fight back with reasonable force. There is no duty to retreat, even if retreat is the safest option.

The stand your ground law applies both in your own home and in public places, as long as you are not trespassing at the time and as long as you did not initiate the altercation.

The older “castle doctrine,” by contrast, allows you to stand your ground only inside your own home.

Aggressive San Diego County Criminal Defense Lawyers

The stand your ground law in California can be applied in a variety of different ways, depending on your particular circumstances.

A skilled California criminal lawyer will not allow the prosecutor to dictate how this concept is applied to your case.

What’s more, we will not push you into a plea deal that is not in your best interests. We stand ready to fight to protect you. We have been to jury trial well over 100 times, and we understand every nuance of the San Diego County criminal justice system.

If you have been charged with a serious crime, especially a violent crime, you have no time to waste. Call the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, at 619-234-2300 or contact us online for a free, confidential consultation.

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Kerry L. Armstrong


Attorney Kerry Armstrong opened up his law firm in June 2007. Mr. Armstrong attended Thomas Jefferson School of Law, San Diego, California, and received his B.S. from Middle Tennessee State University. Kerry L. Armstrong became certified by the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization for criminal law in August 2020, making him one of the few criminal defense attorneys with a criminal law legal specialization certificate in San Diego County.  Between 2014 – 2019, Mr. Armstrong was selected for inclusion in the California Super Lawyers list, an honor only awarded to 5% of the nation’s attorneys.

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