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California Penal Code 198.5 PC - Castle Doctrine


Los Angeles Criminal Defense LawyerMany homeowners in California wonder whether they have the right to protect themselves and their families, including using deadly force, if someone breaks into their home. The answer to this question can be found in California’s Castle Doctrine law. This law provides homeowners with certain protections and allows them to defend themselves. In this article, we will examine what the Castle Doctrine entails, how it works, and what it means for homeowners in California.

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.



The Castle Doctrine is a law that says you have the right to protect it and your family from intruders in their homes (i.e., their “castles”), even if that means using force. This law is based on an old English rule that dates back to the 1600s.

In California, the Castle Doctrine is specifically outlined in Penal Code 198.5 PC. This law establishes that if someone forcibly enters or attempts to enter your home unlawfully, there is a presumption that you have a reasonable fear of death or serious bodily harm to yourself or your family. Consequently, if you employ deadly force against the intruder in such circumstances, it is considered justifiable homicide, affording you legal protection.



According to California Penal Code 198.5 PC, the state’s Castle Doctrine outlines the circumstances under which individuals in their homes may legally injure or kill intruders. To meet the requirements of this doctrine, the following elements must be true:

  • The doctrine applies to intruders who unlawfully and forcibly enter or attempt to enter your home.
  • You must have been aware of or reasonably believed that the intruder was attempting to enter by force.
  • The doctrine does not apply if the intruder is a family member or a person who resides with you.
  • You must have used force that is likely to result in death or cause significant bodily harm to the intruder.

The Castle Doctrine offers robust legal protections; however, it is important to note its limitations. Firstly, it specifically applies to intruders who are inside the home and does not extend to those on the property. Secondly, the Castle Doctrine prohibits pursuing or attacking an intruder after the threat has ceased. This means that once the danger has passed, individuals are not protected under the Castle Doctrine if they continue to engage the intruder.

Moreover, if the intruder is a police officer lawfully entering the home, the Castle Doctrine may not apply. The presumption of reasonable fear, which is the basis of the Castle Doctrine, can be rebutted by prosecutors who provide evidence to the contrary. Lastly, it is crucial to ensure that the force used in self-defense is necessary and proportional to the perceived threat. Employing grossly excessive force could still lead to potential criminal charges, despite the Castle Doctrine’s protections.



The Castle Doctrine in California operates on several important principles that homeowners should be aware of:

  • Under the Castle Doctrine, there is a legal presumption that a homeowner reasonably feared death or great bodily harm when using force against a home intruder. This removes the burden of having to prove self-defense in such situations.
  • In contrast to some other states, California’s Castle Doctrine does not require homeowners to retreat before using force against intruders. They have the right to stand their ground and protect themselves within their own homes.
  • If an intruder unlawfully enters a home, they are presumed to present an imminent threat of death or great bodily harm. In such cases, homeowners are justified in using deadly force to neutralize the threat.
  • The Castle Doctrine in California is specifically restricted to incidents that occur inside a homeowner’s residence. It does not extend to other locations such as the front porch, yard, workplace, or vehicle; its sole purpose is to protect individuals defending their occupied homes.


If you find yourself facing criminal charges for harming or killing an intruder in your home, seeking the assistance of a skilled criminal defense attorney is crucial. A criminal defense lawyer can help you build a strong legal defense centered around the Castle Doctrine. Here are some important steps that can be taken:

  • An attorney will work to gather compelling evidence such as security footage, recordings, and witness statements to establish that there was a forced and unlawful entry into your home.
  • It is essential to demonstrate that you possessed a reasonable belief that the intruder presented an immediate threat of death or serious bodily harm.
  • A defense attorney will aim to show that the level of force used was appropriate, proportional, and necessary to neutralize the perceived threat.
  • Presenting evidence of your genuine fear and state of mind during the incident can help support your claim of self-defense under the Castle Doctrine.
  • A lawyer may file pre-trial motions asserting immunity from prosecution under relevant laws, such as PC 198.5.
  • An experienced attorney will counter any attempts made by prosecutors to challenge the presumption of the Castle Doctrine, strengthening your defense.

Having the guidance of a qualified legal professional throughout these processes is of utmost importance. They will work to protect your rights and fight for the best possible outcome in your case.



The Castle Doctrine can serve as a formidable defense for homeowners in California who have used force against violent intruders. However, it is important to note that successfully claiming this defense requires meeting the specific requirements outlined in PC 198.5 and effectively countering any evidence presented by prosecutors.

If you are currently facing criminal charges for defending yourself or your loved ones against home invaders, it is crucial to seek immediate assistance from a skilled criminal defense lawyer. Cyrus Tabibnia at Tabibnia Law firm specializes in handling such cases and can assess your situation to construct a robust legal defense that leverages the Castle Doctrine.

By having an experienced attorney by your side, you can safeguard yourself against the possibility of being wrongly convicted for protecting your home and family from harm. Do not leave your fate to chance – consult a criminal defense attorney today. Call Cyrus Tabibnia at Tabibnia Law Firm: 866-713-2159.


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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