Although it is never an ideal situation, and hopefully it never happens but the fact of the matter is that there could be a time when you have no choice but to use self-defense to protect yourself. If that time ever comes it is important to know what the difference is between self-defense and assault or excessive force. Here is an overview of how self-defense laws are written in California.
Reasonable belief of a threat
The first thing to know if you are ever in the situation where you have to claim self-defense is that an incident would have to be described or proven that there was a threat to safety. If someone gets into a verbal altercation and then someone reacts with a physical act then that person would most likely be charged with assault because words exchanged is not enough proof that they were in imminent danger. If someone, however, throws a punch and you hit back then self-defense can be claimed as long as it shows you stopped once the threat has stopped.
Stand your ground
Stand your ground essentially means that if someone confronts you with violence, then you have the right to defend yourself and are not obligated to escape or run from the situation. If someone threatens your life then you have the right to use deadly force to stop the threat. If that person however stops and then runs away and you still use deadly force then it would be considered murdered since when they decided to run away, they were obviously no longer a danger.
The Castle Doctrine is a law that allows leniency with self-defense when it comes to your home and your property. If someone enters your home with force, you have the right to protect yourself and your property by any reasonable means necessary including fatally wounding. As with stand your ground however if it is obvious that extreme measures such as killing someone were not warranted then you could face difficulties claiming self-defense even if they had come into your home.
Overall, you have every right to protect yourself and most laws are written to reinforce that notion but it is also important to remember that once the threat is nullified if you take it too far it could be you that ends up in trouble so it’s best to stay safe and only use force when necessary.