Understanding California’s Self-Defense Laws

In Florida, there’s been an uproar lately after police refused to charge a man in the shooting death of another, citing the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law. The state’s self-protection law has been controversial from the beginning.
In 2012 a jury found George Zimmerman not guilty in the death of teenager Trayvon Martin, citing the law and since then there have been several other shooting deaths where the law has been applied.
In California, there is no “Stand Your Ground Law” but it’s still worth reviewing what is and is not acceptable under our state laws.

In our state a valid claim of self-defense arises when you commit violence to protect yourself, as long as your behavior is determined to be reasonable under the circumstances. The phrase “reasonable under the circumstances” signifies that you:

  • Had a reasonable belief you were in imminent danger of being killed, injured, or unlawfully touched.
  • Reasonably believed you had to utilize force to prevent that harm from occurring.
  • And employed no greater force than was necessary to protect against the event.

California does have restrictive gun-control laws, but the right of self-defense turns on the analysis of the circumstances. Assuming the first two points in the analysis above are found in your favor, then the bottom line is whether the use of the handgun was necessary?

Other California  Gun Laws to be Aware of:
Can you carry a handgun in your car when you are driving?
We’ve all seen YouTube videos and heard of road-rage incidents where drivers have either waved a gun in a threatening manner or in extreme circumstances even shot at another vehicle. In California those actions could land you in jail.

Under California Penal Code Section 25610, a U.S. citizen who is over 18 years of age, and who either resides in California or is temporarily here, can transport a handgun by motor vehicle provided it is unloaded and locked in the vehicle’s trunk, or in a locked container.
That means you can’t have easy access to it. If police stop you for any reason and they see a firearm, chances are you’ll be arrested.

Can I buy a handgun from my neighbor or from a friend? 
The sale of a firearm among private parties must be through a licensed firearms dealer, and be recorded using a Private Party Transfer Form.

The licensed dealer may charge a $10 fee, which is in addition to the $25 transfer fee the state of California charges. The licensed dealer also submits a Dealer’s Record of Sale form to the state, and the buyer must wait 10 days before picking up the gun.

California has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country. To help you understand them the California Attorney General’s Office has a link online that answers many questions about firearms and the laws in California.

Our restrictive gun laws also come with some heavy penalties if you’re caught violating the law. If you’re charged with a gun crime it’s imperative that you contact an experienced California Criminal Defense Attorney well-versed in gun laws to start planning your defense as soon as possible. Don’t take chances. A mistake could mean years in jail.


Pedro Bernal is a San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney with years of experience as both a prosecutor and defense attorney, dealing with complex criminal charges, including gun law violations. Call him today at (619)-736-9092 for a free consultation.
The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as legal advice. For a free case evaluation please call the offices of Pedro Bernal today.

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