The Legality of Self-Defense in San Diego

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In San Diego, reasonable self-defense is permitted in order to protect oneself or others from injury or death. In order for self-defense to be a valid legal defense to criminal charges, the individual making the claim must prove that:

1) He or she reasonably believed his or herself to be in imminent danger of being killed, suffering serious bodily injury, or being unlawfully touched;

2) It was reasonable to believe that the use of force was necessary to defend against that danger; and

3) No more force than necessary was used to defend against that imminent danger.

Below is an overview of these three elements.

Imminent danger or harm

As noted above, an individual claiming self-defense must have had a reasonable belief that he or she was facing imminent danger. Reasonableness is judged by whether a reasonable person in the same situation would believe that the other person was in the process of unlawfully touching, causing injury to, or attempting to kill him or her.

Immediate use of force was necessary

In order for self-defense to be a valid legal defense, the person’ belief that the use of force was necessary to defend against danger must have been reasonable under the circumstances. For example, if a person is physically attacked, then it is reasonable to use force to ward off the attack. However, if an individual yells at another person from across the street, it is unreasonable for the second person to use force against the individual who yelled.

Only the amount of force necessary for defense was used

Individuals in California are legally permitted to use only the amount of force necessary to protect themselves or others from imminent danger. For example, if an individual is attacked by another person with a barrage of light slaps, it would be unreasonable for the individual being attacked to pull out a gun and shoot the attacker. However, if an individual is attacked with a knife, and the victim believes that he or she is at imminent risk of being killed, then deadly force may be used to ward off the attack.

San Diego Criminal Defense Attorneys


Due to the potential consequences involved, it is important that anyone charged with a crime in San Diego, California, seek the guidance of an experienced criminal defense attorney. At the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, our experienced criminal defense attorneys provide all of our clients with expert legal guidance in order to achieve the most favorable results possible. The talent and experience of our San Diego, California, attorneys ensures that our clients’ cases are handled expertly and with the utmost care. If you or a loved one is facing battery charges in California, please contact us immediately for a free consultation.

Author Photo

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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