There are not many things scarier than someone else being in your home when they aren’t supposed to be. It’s natural in this circumstance to try and defend yourself, your family, and your home, and many people own and keep guns in their home to defend themselves against home intruders. This guide will go through self-defense in California and how you can defend against trespassers.

You Have a Right to Self-Defense

You generally have a right to self-defense. Self-defense can include many things: you have the right to defend yourself if you’re in danger, defend others if they’re in danger, and even defend your property when it’s in danger. But that right does have limits.

First, you must reasonably believe that you are in danger to use self-defense. If a person breaks into your home, it is reasonable to think that you or your home is in danger, and you can defend yourself and your home.

Second, you must reasonably believe that the danger is imminent. Imminent means the person will harm you immediately. By law, a person is presumed to have a reasonable fear of imminent harm when someone breaks into their home without permission, so if there is a person you don’t know who just broke into your home, the first two rules of self-defense are presumed to be satisfied.

Third, you can generally only defend using proportional force. This means that your level of force must match the force the other person who is putting you in danger is using. If they’re using deadly force, then you can use deadly force. Deadly force is force that is likely to cause death or great bodily injury, and includes any use of a firearm, even if you’re specifically aiming at a part of the person’s body that won’t kill them if hit. If they aren’t using deadly force, you must use a lesser form of force to defend. However, California carves an exception for this third rule when it comes to repelling people who break into your home and threaten you or your family.

How Do I Stop a Home Invader?

The Castle Doctrine is California’s exception to the proportional force rule. The Castle Doctrine is based on an old English rule that likens a person’s home to their castle, which means not only does the homeowner not have to retreat when faced with danger in their home, but they can also use the necessary means to defend themselves. In modern California law, you have the right to use deadly force to defend yourself and your family if the trespasser unlawfully and forcibly entered your home. You cannot use deadly force if the trespasser is a member of your family or household, and if you didn’t know and couldn’t find out that someone had forcibly and illegally broken in your home. Also, if nobody in your family or household is in danger, and only your property is in danger, then you are not allowed to shoot the trespasser, and must instead use proportional force (which is often not deadly force) to defend the home.

If you have any questions or want to talk to an attorney about a trespasser and your right to self-defense, please contact Givelle Lamano and Lamano Law Offices at