Can I Shoot Someone in California Who Is Trying to Steal My Car?

by Ambrosio Rodriguez | Apr 17, 2022 | Criminal Defense
Can I Shoot Someone in California Who Is Trying to Steal My Car?

Typically, the answer is no. While there are a few exceptions, most states, including California, do not allow the use of deadly force simply because someone is trying to steal your car. However, if someone is stealing the car by means of armed robbery, for example, that is a completely different matter – that situation could trigger the law of self-defense.

California law does allow a person to use self-defense or force when defending themselves or others in certain situations. A person is authorized to use force if they reasonably believe they are in imminent danger of physical harm and that force is necessary to stop the danger against themselves or another person. The amount of force you are allowed to use is based upon the degree of force reasonably necessary under the circumstances as outlined in California Penal Code 187 PC.

What is the Castle Doctrine?

Many people may have heard of a legal principle referred to as the “Castle Doctrine,” which applies to a situation where, as the name implies, a person can use self-defense to protect their home or “castle.” This doctrine has even been held to apply in other places outside the home if you have the legal right to be there – for example, while inside your own car. Since the creation of this legal principle, a person no longer has a duty to retreat when someone breaks into their home, and a person can lawfully use deadly force to defend themselves or someone else in their home.

Any time a gun is used, even to prevent someone from stealing your car, it is considered deadly force. While we do have the right to defend ourselves and our property, most of the time, we do not have the right to use deadly force to protect property. It is important to speak to an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney about your situation to determine your rights and help you understand what level of force is justifiable under the law.

What is Reasonable Belief?

While you may be able to assert this section of the Penal Code as a defense for shooting someone who is trying to steal your vehicle, a jury or trier of fact will decide whether the use of that force was reasonable. They would consider whether the property could have been protected or recovered by any other means than deadly force.

If there was no imminent danger, it could be challenging to convince a jury that killing someone who is stealing your car was reasonable. Factors would include, for example, whether the person stealing the car had a weapon. If not, jurors may think you could have simply called the police and reported the crime rather than taking someone’s life.

What Should I Do If I Shoot Someone on My Property?

California law makes it clear that you do not have a duty to retreat before using deadly force when another person threatens you with imminent danger – particularly in your own home.

If you find yourself in this situation, you must call 911 immediately for assistance. If you have an attorney, call that attorney while waiting for the police or contact a criminal defense attorney immediately so that they can be present and advise you prior to you answering any questions about the shooting.

Even if you were justified in the use of deadly force, it would be wise to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent you. An attorney can help you prepare a defense to the charges using California self-defense laws.

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