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California Penal Code 197 PC - Justifiable Killing In Self-Defense


Los Angeles Criminal Defense LawyerFacing charges of homicide can be an overwhelming and frightening experience. And the penalties for homicide are severe. As per California Penal Code § 197 PC, it is considered justifiable homicide when someone is killed in self-defense or defense of others if the attacker is attempting to cause severe injury or death. Additionally, under the Castle Doctrine defense in California, it is permissible to use lethal force against a home intruder if the intruder clearly intends to commit a violent crime against someone inside.

California Penal Code 197 PC allows individuals to use deadly force in self-defense or defense of others when facing imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm. If the threat is not imminent, the person must resort to proportional non-deadly force to protect themselves.

197. Homicide is also justifiable when committed by any person in any of the following cases:

(1) When resisting any attempt to murder any person, or to commit a felony, or to do some great bodily injury upon any person.

(2) When committed in defense of habitation, property, or person, against one who manifestly intends or endeavors, by violence or surprise, to commit a felony, or against one who manifestly intends and endeavors, in a violent, riotous, or tumultuous manner, to enter the habitation of another for the purpose of offering violence to any person therein.

(3) When committed in the lawful defense of such person, or of a spouse, parent, child, master, mistress, or servant of such person, when there is reasonable ground to apprehend a design to commit a felony or to do some great bodily injury, and imminent danger of such design being accomplished; but such person, or the person in whose behalf the defense was made, if he or she was the assailant or engaged in mutual combat, must really and in good faith have endeavored to decline any further struggle before the homicide was committed.

(4) When necessarily committed in attempting, by lawful ways and means, to apprehend any person for any felony .



California Penal Code 197 PC outlines a portion of the criteria for California’s Castle Doctrine, which permits an individual to use lethal force against a home intruder if the specified conditions are fulfilled:

  • The defendant must be defending their home or property.
  • The presence of an intruder who intends to commit a heinous act (e.g., rape or robbery) must be evident.
  • The defendant must have a reasonable belief that harm is imminent.
  • There must be a reasonable belief by the defendant that deadly force is required to eliminate the threat.
  • The defendant must employ reasonable force to protect against the perceived threat.

In addition, California law allows individuals to use lethal force while performing a citizen’s arrest in the following situations:

  • The arrestee was actively engaged in a felony that posed a potential risk of death or serious bodily harm and the arrestee was deemed to be a future danger to society.
  • The citizen making the arrest was attempting to suppress a riot.

Justifiable homicide cases in California revolve around the defendant’s state of mind and the circumstances at hand. If it can be shown that a reasonable person in the defendant’s position would have utilized deadly force, then the defendant is likely to be absolved of any murder charges.


When it comes to incidents where someone dies and the charge classification is unclear, it is important to understand the distinctions between various violent crimes. These terms, such as murder, manslaughter, and homicide, are often used interchangeably, causing confusion. To provide clarity, the following definitions are provided:

  • Homicide: Homicide refers to the act of one person killing another. It can be categorized as criminal, excusable, or justified.
  • Justifiable Homicide: Justifiable homicide occurs when someone intentionally kills another person, but for a justifiable reason, such as acting in self-defense.
  • Excusable Homicide: Excusable homicide refers to cases where a person is unintentionally killed during an accident while engaged in a lawful act. For example, if someone is attending a shooting practice at a gun range and unknowingly wanders into the target area and gets killed.
  • Murder: Murder is a type of criminal homicide. It involves the intentional and premeditated killing of another individual.
  • Manslaughter: Manslaughter differs from justifiable homicide in that the killing is either done voluntarily “in the heat of passion” or involuntarily due to reckless behavior that resulted in someone’s death.


No punishment or charge exists for justified homicides. Our Tabibnia Law firm designs winning defense strategies. Consult with our lawyer Cyrus Tabibnia with diverse defenses to safeguard you.


  • Self-Defense: Self-defense involves killing another person to prevent harm or defend against an imminent threat. The Judicial Council of California has strict guidelines dictating when the use of deadly force is justifiable.
  • Castle Doctrine: In California, the Castle Doctrine grants homeowners the right to use deadly force to protect their property, without needing to flee or retreat. However, this right only extends to the end of their property, and the amount of force used against an intruder must be proportional to the reasonable fear of harm.
  • Defense of Others: Individuals are also authorized to use deadly force to protect others from impending harm, threats, or danger, similar to self-defense.


While the primary role of the police is to protect and serve, it is important to remember that they ultimately operate within the confines of the justice system. In order to safeguard your rights, it is crucial to cooperate with law enforcement during a case, but always in the presence of your attorney. Lawyers strongly advise against speaking to the police due to the following reasons:

  • Police are legally allowed to lie during interrogations, even if your actions were justifiable, justified, or innocent. There are limited instances in which this deception is prohibited.
  • Deceptive tactics may be employed, and false confessions can contribute to wrongful convictions, which are unfortunately not uncommon.
  • It is essential to recognize that the role of the police is limited to making arrests, while the legal system takes care of the subsequent processes and determinations. Therefore, police officers do not have the authority to make definitive judgments.



Contact Cyrus Tabibnia, a skilled criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles, who specializes in advocating for those accused of violating California Penal Code Section 197. With extensive knowledge of justifiable homicide by another person, he is dedicated to safeguarding your future. His services include:

  • Guiding you through the intricacies of the criminal justice system
  • Formulating and presenting a strong legal defense
  • Ensuring your rights are protected
  • Interacting with judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement on your behalf
  • Assisting with jury selection
  • Assessing plea bargains
  • Managing legal documentation and records

Choosing to engage the services of Cyrus Tabibnia as your criminal defense attorney is a personal decision that can significantly impact the outcome of your case. To schedule a consultation, call: 866-713-2159.


Justifiable homicide

California Code, Penal Code – PEN § 197

California Penal Code sections 187, 190, 190.1, 190.2, 190.3, 190.4, and 190.5

Cyrus Tabibnia

Cyrus Tabibnia

Cyrus Tabibnia, also known as Shahrooz Tabibnia, is a criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles, California. With a law degree from Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, he has been practicing law since 2005 and holds license #237348. With over 18 years of experience, Cyrus specializes in various misdemeanor and felony criminal Law including Domestic Violence, Theft Crime, Sex crime, DUI & DWI, Personal Injury, Employment Law, and Cannabis & Marijuana Drugs Law. Being bilingual in English, Persian, and Spanish enables him to effectively communicate with a diverse range of clients. From 2014 to 2018, he served as a board member of the Iranian American Bar Association. An expungement attorney in Los Angeles who can assist you in clearing your criminal record in the state of California.

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