When Can You Use Self-Defense in a Murder Case?

Posted by Ronald D. HeddingMar 27, 2023

When it comes to California Penal Code 187 PC murder cases, if you are the person that killed the other individual, you're going to have to come up with a defense, or you're going to have to try to have your attorney work out some resolution with the prosecutor.

When Can You Use Self-Defense in a Murder Case?

The problem in many of these murder cases is that the prosecutors will not offer anything reasonable to settle the case, so you end up being in a position where you have to take the case to trial. 

So, if you were defending yourself when the supposed murder occurred, you can argue that it's justifiable homicide and, therefore, not a crime. Again, there are jury instructions on that.

The first thing you want to do is get an attorney who can defend you.  There aren't too many experienced layers that do many murder cases because they're too worried about the potential downside and ramifications of their client being convicted of murder.  Typically, the client is looking at the following penalties if convicted:

  • 15 to life for second-degree murder,
  • 25 to life for first-degree murder, and
  • there are all these enhancements, such as if you used a weapon and hit somebody, they can add an extra 25 years.

If you used a weapon during a crime and killed somebody, they can add ten years. This is because so many enhancements exist to these murder cases, putting the prosecutors in a powerful position.

What is Reasonable Force?

To be able to use deadly force in a murder case, you will have to be confronted with deadly force usually.  If someone pushes or shoves you, and you pull out a gun and shoot and kill them, you've gone overboard with your force.

What is Reasonable Force in a Murder Case?

You cannot use self-defense in that scenario. So there are scenarios that kind of fall in the middle of what I've just described. 

If someone has been threatening to kill you, and you see that person, and that person is reaching for something that you perceive as a gun, and you end up shooting them, and it turns out it wasn't a gun, you may still argue that it is self-defense because the person threatened you. 

They came up to you as though it looked like they were going to do something that could have been deadly.  So, it depends on the facts and circumstances surrounding the case whether or not you can pull off a self-defense claim.

Usually, though, the main thing about that is reasonableness.  Whatever force you use under whatever circumstance it is, has to be reasonable to the ordinary person.

If somebody looked at it on a jury and they thought, yes, that's reasonable, you had to use deadly force, you could have been killed yourself, now you're in a position to start to get your attorney to be able to fight for you and get that not-guilty verdict by way of self-defense.

Contact an Experienced Murder Defense Lawyer

Of course, jury instructions will be given to the jury with elements that the prosecutors have to prove to meet the crime. Then the defense will have to prove self-defense, and certain factors must be met.

If you or a loved one is facing a murder charge, you've come to the right place.  I've handled many murder cases over a 30+ year career. 

I've worked for the district attorney's office.  I've worked for a superior court just and have been defending people like you or your loved one for murder charges all over LA county and surrounding counties.  I've been everywhere. Pick up the phone.  Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding.  I stand at the ready to help you. Our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers offer a free case evaluation.

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