Sunday, May 23, 2010

California Home Protection Bill of Rights

In 1984, the California legislature passed the California Home Protection Bill of rights, which added California Penal Code sec. 198.5:
Any person using force intended or likely to cause death or great bodily injury within his or her residence shall be presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily injury to self, family, or a member of the household when that force is used against another person, not a member of the family or household, who unlawfully and forcibly enters or has unlawfully and forcibly entered the residence and the person using the force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry occurred.

As used in this section, great bodily injury means a significant or substantial physical injury.
Effectively, if a stranger forces way into your home, the presumption is that they intend a resident great bodily injury. If you use deadly force against someone forcing entry into your home, this presumption puts you at great legal advantage if the prosecutor decides to pursue criminal charges against you.

I can remember when California passed this "castle doctrine" law.  My recollection is that the motivation for passage of this law was a case out of Los Angeles in 1982 or 1983.  A burglar forced entry into someone's home, and the woman of the house either stabbed or shot the burglar--and the district attorney prosecuted her, because she didn't have proof that the burglar intended her death or great bodily injury.

If this seems utterly bizarre: actually, it is not.  There are a lot of people out there who are so horrified by deadly force that they are prepared to make the most absurd excuses.  A co-worker, many years ago, explained that there are all sorts of perfectly innocent reasons why someone might force entry into your home.  "Maybe there's been a traffic accident, and they need medical supplies."  (Not a dummy; he's now a multimillionaire.)

Anyway, I have seen the case that caused the legislature to pass 198.5, but I can't find it now.  If you know the details, please let me know.

1 comment:

  1. I don't have details of the case, but for some reason I thought it was part of a rash of home invasion robberies about that time in Orange County.

    As a side note, this is one area where CA is not as bad as it could be. In the UK, if you kill a burglar even under circumstances where self-defense is the only likely motivation, you are likely to be jailed.