CALIFORNIA EXCUSABLE AND JUSTIFIABLE HOMICIDE

justifiable and excusable homicide in california

It can occur that a person can be innocent and, notwithstanding all circumstances, be accused of committing a crime by mistake. We will help you to understand the various aspects of your case.
There are different types of homicide, ranging from manslaughter to capital murder. Homicide is considered to be the killing of one human being by another, either lawfully or unlawfully. Homicide includes murder and manslaughter as well as justifiable homicide. Under California law, murder is the unlawful killing of a human being, or a fetus, with malice aforethought. However, there are certain willful killings that can be classified as justifiable or excusable pursuant to California Penal Code.
Below, we will explain the main elements of the California Justifiable Homicide and Excusable Homicide as well as we are ready to provide answers to your initial questions concerning murder charges in California for free.

1. Justifiable Homicide in California
a) Justifiable homicide: private citizen
i) Justifiable Homicide: Defending Against Harm to Person within Home or on Property
b) “Citizen’s arrest”
c) Justifiable Homicide: By Public Officer
2. Excusable Homicide in California
a) Excusable Homicide: Accident
b) Excusable Homicide: Accident in the Heat of Passion
3. Punishment for Justifiable Homicide

Below, we will explain the main elements of the California Excusable and Justifiable homicide definitions as well as we are ready to provide answers to your initial questions concerning voluntary manslaughter charges in California for free.

1. Justifiable Homicide in California
Justifiable Homicide refers to and limited to:
– The killing of a felon by a peace officer in the line of duty.
– The killing of a felon, during the commission of a felony, by a private citizen.
Justifiable homicide can be intentional. Unlike justifiable homicide, excusable homicide cannot be intentional. Otherwise, it cannot be used as effective defense in order to reduce murder charge to manslaughter.

a) Justifiable homicide: private citizen
In everyday life the most common form of justifiable homicide is a killing committed of another person to defend oneself, or someone else, from death or serious injury.
The defendant acted in lawful (self-defense or defense of another) if:
– The act was reasonable if the defendant believed that he/she or someone else was in:
a) imminent danger of being killed
b) suffering great bodily injury
c) imminent danger of being raped, maimed, robbed or other forcible and atrocious crime
– The defendant reasonably believed that the immediate use of deadly force was necessary to defend against that danger
– The defendant used no more force than was reasonably necessary to defend against that danger.

In order to understand better aforementioned criteria for homicide to be justifiable we need to clarify certain terms.
First of all, the defendant should show the jury that he or she had reasonable belief of the imminent danger and each person in that situation would have believed the same in case of similar circumstances.
Secondly, the danger should be imminent. It is impossible to commit a justifiable homicide of a person who was going to do something. In other words, the justifiable killing cannot be committed to prevent someone’s future possible harmful acts. Moreover, the force used against another one is justifiable only if it was enough to prevent the force.
Example: While playing poker, players started fighting. And one of them killed another person with broken bottle. In this case, the defendant cannot claim to consider the homicide as a justified homicide because the used force was more than it was necessary.

ai) Justifiable Homicide: Defending Against Harm to Person within Home or on Property

There is another kind of justifiable homicide that is killing which can be committed while defending against person harming within home or on property. It should be taken into consideration that a person committing a justifiable homicide against aforementioned person should be convinced that the person invading the home or property has the intent to commit “forcible and atrocious crime”. We include in the list of such crimes rape, robbery and mayhem.
Thus, the defendant cannot be found guilty in the killing if he or she tried to defend its home or property in the following circumstances:
1. The defendant reasonably believed that it was defending a home against a person, who intended to or tried to commit “forcible and atrocious crime”
2. The defendant believed that the danger was imminent and his or her belief was reasonable
3. The defendant reasonably believed that the use of deadly force was necessary to defend against the danger
4. The used force was reasonably necessary to defend against the danger.

b) “Citizen’s arrest”
It can happen that an ordinary citizen would try to catch a felon. Unfortunately, the felon can be killed in result of the acts having aim to catch him. California Law states criteria while the killing of a felon during so-called “citizen arrest” can be considered justifiable.
In order to consider a homicide justifiable the citizen’s conduct, who tries to arrest a felon, should correspond to the following requirements:
– The defendant attempted of or committed the killing while lawfully trying to arrest or detain a person for committing the “forcible and atrocious” crime or felony that threatened death or great bodily harm
– The crime was actually committed
– The defendant had reason to believe that the person had committed that crime
– The defendant had reason to believe that the decedent posed a threat of serious physical harm, either to the defendant or to others or knew that he or she had committed “forcible and atrocious crime”
– The attempted or committed killing was necessary to prevent the decedent’s escape.
Example: A bystander can notice that a felon is trying to rape a woman. In this case, if he tries to catch him and the felon will be killed, the homicide probably will be considered as justifiable. However, REMEMBER the used force has to be correspondent to the danger.
NOTE: The prosecutor has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the killing was not justified.

c) Justifiable Homicide: By Public Officer
Public officer can kill people as well. The main issue for the legislator is to set forth the criteria while such killings would be considered as justifiable. Based on this, California law has special provisions referring justifiable homicides committed by public officers.
Such acts are lawful, if:
1. The defendant is a public officer or obeying a public officer’s command for aid and assistance;
2. The killing was committed while taking back into custody a convicted felon who had escaped from prison, arresting a person(s) charged with a felony who was(were) resisting arrest or fleeing from justice, overcoming actual resistance to some legal process or while performing any other legal duty;
3. The killing was necessary to accomplish lawful purpose(s);
4. The defendant had probable cause to believe that the felon posed a threat of serious physical harm, either to the defendant or to others.
A person has probable cause to believe that the felon posed a threat of serious physical harm, if he or she can persuade someone of reasonable caution that the other person is going to cause serious physical harm to another person(s).
NOTE: The prosecutor has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the killing was not justified. Homicide by public officers is justifiable while it committed directly by public officer and those acting by their command in their aid and assistance.
Examples: the police got a home alarm and tried to stop the robber while evading from proprietor. The robber started firing at them and the officer returned the fire. In result, the robber was killed. In this case, the justifiable homicide by the police officer is obvious.

2. Excusable Homicide
Any person can be accused of a killing but is does not always mean that the person should be found guilty of committing a crime. The action of the killer can often result of accident and misfortune. California law stated criteria while such killings can be considered lawful. Consequently, the accused proved that circumstances stated by law existed can evade the penalty because his or her acts were lawful.

a) Excusable Homicide: Accident
Thus, if you face the following criteria, your actions can be estimated as lawful and you will not be subjected to the punishment:
1. It was a lawful act in a lawful way;
2. The defendant was acting with usual and ordinary caution;
3. The defendant had not any unlawful intent.
Acting with usual and ordinary caution means that a person acts in a way that a reasonably careful person would act in the same or similar situation.
NOTE: The prosecutor has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the killing was not justified.
Example: Jane was swapped. Philip approached to help but he could not swim. He ran away in order to find help. Jane died. Philip was accused of murder. Nonetheless, he was acquitted because he could not swim and acted lawful.

b) Excusable Homicide: Accident in the Heat of Passion
Under California Penal Code 195 PC, homicide is excusable in the case when committed in the heat of passion, upon any sudden and sufficient provocation, or upon a sudden combat, when no undue advantage is taken, nor any dangerous weapon used, and when the killing is not done in a cruel or unusual manner.
Consequently, the defendant is not guilty of having killed someone by accident while acting in the heat of passion. Such a killing is considered to be excused and that is why it is not unlawful, if at the time of the killing:
1. The defendant acted in the heat of passion;
2. The defendant was suddenly provoked by the decedent or suddenly drawn into combat by him;
3. The defendant did not take undue advantage of the decedent;
4. The defendant did not use a dangerous weapon;
5. The defendant did not kill the decedent in a cruel or unusual way;
6. The defendant did not intend to kill the decedent and did not act with conscious disregard of the danger to human life;
7. The defendant did not act with criminal negligence.

A person is supposed to be in the heat of passion if he or she is provoked into doing a rash act under the influence of intense emotion that obscures his or her reasoning or judgment. The defendant must act under the direct and immediate influence of provocation. Slight or remote provocation is not sufficient. Direct and immediate provocation can occur over a short or long period of time. Such provocation must be sufficient to force to act rashly and without due deliberation. It is not required that the defendant was anger, rage, or any specific emotion. In deciding whether the provocation was sufficient, consider whether a person of average disposition would have been provoked and how such a person would react in the same situation knowing the same facts.
Another term used in the law is the criminal negligence. It means:
1. He or she acts in a way that creates a high risk of death or great bodily injury
2. A reasonable person would have known that acting in that way would create such a risk.
In other words, a person acts with criminal negligence when he or she acts how an ordinarily careful person would not act with such amounts to disregard for human life or indifference to the consequences in the same circumstances.
NOTE: The prosecutor has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the killing was not justified.

3. Punishment for Justifiable Homicide

JUSTIFIABLE AND EXCUSABLE HOMICIDE ARE NOT PUNISHABLE.

The Margarian Law Firm aggressively protects the rights of criminal defendants in California. We will evaluate your case and prepare as fast as possible your defense for trial and do our best to get the best possible outcome for you. Do not hesitate to contact us. We handle every aspect of your case, from the first step to the very last court hearing. If your homicide appears to be justifiable or excusable, we will our best that you could be fully acquitted and discharged.

You may file your request online, by telephone or by mail. 818-553-1000

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