Below is a brief description of some of the most common legal defenses applicable to California criminal offenses. We arranged this criminal defense list alphabetically for your convenience. Not every defense strategy will apply to every crime.
- 1. Accidents
- 2. Alibis
- 3. Coerced confessions
- 4. Double jeopardy
- 5. Duress
- 6. Entrapment
- 7. False accusations / wrongful arrest
- 8. Insanity
- 9. Lack of probable cause
- 10. Mistaken identity
- 11. Mistake of fact
- 12. Necessity
- 13. Parent’s right to discipline a child
- 14. Police misconduct
- 15. Self-defense / defense of others
- 16. Unconsciousness
- 17. Voluntary / involuntary intoxication
If, after reading this article you have additional questions, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.
Accidents happen. Period. Fortunately, California law recognizes this and excuses alleged criminal conduct that occurs accidentally.
If you accidentally commit an act that amounts to a crime – that is, you do so without criminal intent or negligence – you should bear no criminal liability.1
In some accident cases, prosecutors may still file charges if it appears you acted with ordinary or criminal negligence. Simply put, ordinary negligence takes place when you fail to act as a “reasonably prudent” person would have.
California defines criminal negligence as acting with a reckless “I don’t care what happens” attitude.2 A car accident that arises out of a street race or drunk driving is an example.
As long as you did not act with negligence and were not motivated by any other criminal purpose, the legal defense of accident should absolve you of liability.
“Alibi” is a Latin word that means “in another place”. If you are accused of a crime but could not have committed it because at the time it was committed you were somewhere else, then you have an alibi.
If we can corroborate your alibi with
- surveillance tapes,
- credit card receipts or
- other evidence,
this should go a long way towards refuting any allegations that you are the culprit.
Example: The police arrest you for a gas station robbery that took place last Saturday in Rancho Cucamonga. They arrest you because you match the description given by the attendant (and even have a prior robbery conviction).
However, you were at a family reunion last Saturday in Oakland. There are pictures of you at the reunion with family members and you have a plane ticket showing that you flew there Saturday morning. Therefore, you have an alibi defense.
For further discussion of when evidence of an alibi is useful, visit our page on alibi as a legal defense in California criminal cases.
3. Coerced confessions
Police officers may not use overbearing measures to coerce an involuntary confession. Examples of improper or illegal interrogation tactics may include:
- continuing to question you even after you ask for a lawyer,
- depriving you of food, water, or sleep,
- “beating” you (or threatening harm or greater punishment), and/or
- making false promises of leniency in exchange for a confession.
These tactics can be so overbearing that, as studies have shown, it is not uncommon for innocent people to acquiesce and admit to criminal acts they never actually committed.
If we can show that the police coerced you into a confession, then
- the judge may exclude your confession from evidence, or
- the case should be dropped altogether.
Please read our article on False & Coerced Confessions Leading to Wrongful Conviction in California for further discussion.
4. Double jeopardy
- being prosecuted a second time for the same offense following an acquittal or a conviction (but typically not a mistrial), and
- facing multiple punishments for the same offense.
Let us say that a jury acquits you of your California Vehicle Code 23152 DUI charges3. Double jeopardy prevents the prosecutor from claiming that they subsequently received additional evidence and would like to retry the case.
Being placed “once in jeopardy” acts as a permanent bar to a retrial for the same offense.
To understand when double jeopardy does and does not apply, please read our page Double Jeopardy in California criminal law.
If you commit a crime because you reasonably believe your life is in immediate danger, California law excuses your criminal conduct.4
“Duress” excuses criminal culpability when you only commit the crime because another person’s threats or menacing actions compel you to do so.5
Though there is one crime that duress does not excuse: California Penal Code 187 murder.6 You may not kill another person to save your own life unless it is in self-defense.7
If, however, you commit a felony because of duress – and you accidentally or negligently kill someone during the commission of that felony – California’s felony-murder rule would not be triggered. This means that you would not automatically be held criminally liable for that murder.8
California’s entrapment defense applies to situations where you would not have committed the alleged offense but for the
- threats, or
of the police or their agents. = If you were entrapped, it basically means that the police – who were most likely undercover – persuaded you to commit a crime.9
Entrapment is frequently raised as a defense to California sex offenses and California drug crimes.10 It is perhaps most prominently raised in connection with sting operations run by undercover decoy officers trying to make busts for
- Penal Code 647(b), California’s prostitution law,
- Penal Code 647(a), lewd acts in public,
- Penal Code 311 child pornography, and
- possessing and/or selling illegal substances.11
Entrapment is a legal defense that you must prove by a preponderance of the evidence.12 A “preponderance of the evidence” means that it is more likely than not that the only reason you committed the alleged crime was because of the overreaching police conduct.
7. False accusations / wrongful arrest
Unfortunately, it is not at all uncommon for people to get prosecuted based on false allegations.
- attempts to cover up one’s own criminal involvement
are just a few of the reasons why someone may falsely accuse an innocent person of a crime.”13
False allegations are especially common in California domestic violence cases and in California Penal Code 273d PC child abuse cases.14 The good news is that we know the best ways to investigate these types of allegations to reveal the truth and to clear your name.
In California, the test for determining whether a defendant is legally insane is known as the M’Naghten test. Essentially a test of “right and wrong,” the M’Naghten standard holds that if the defense can prove that the defendant committed the crime only because they
- did not understand the nature of their act, OR
- could not distinguish right from wrong,
then California criminal law excuses that conduct.15
The insanity defense – just like the legal defense of entrapment – needs to be proven by a preponderance of the evidence.16 If the defendant is found not guilty by reason of insanity, they will likely be committed to a psychiatric facility until the court believes that they are no longer a threat to society.
For further discussion, please visit our page on the “not guilty by reason of insanity” defense in California law.
9. Lack of probable cause
The California search and seizure rules require police to have probable cause before they can detain you or arrest you. “Probable cause” essentially means that a reasonable and cautious officer would believe that criminal activity is or was taking place based on the surrounding circumstances.
If it appears the cops stopped, detained or arrested you without probable cause, your criminal defense attorney may file a motion to suppress.
At a “suppression motion” hearing (per California Penal Code 1538.5), your lawyer asks the court to exclude any evidence that was obtained via an improper search and seizure.17 If the motion is granted, your case will oftentimes be dismissed.
10. Mistaken Identity
Mistaken eyewitness identification is the leading cause of wrongful conviction. It can happen because:
- you (your physical description, your clothes, your car, etc.) happen to resemble the actual perpetrator,
- someone assumes you are to blame for a criminal act (for example, an elder’s doctor reports you for violating Penal Code 368 PC, California’s elder abuse law18 because they see bruises and incorrectly assumes you, the primary caretaker, must have inflicted them), or
- someone points the finger at you to cover up their own criminal liability.
Example: The police detain Johnny near the scene of a robbery because he looks similar to the description of the suspect. Johnny is not the actual perpetrator. But because he looks like the perp, a witness mistakenly picks him out of a pretrial police lineup. Johnny gets convicted for a crime he did not commit and sent to prison.
11. Mistake of fact
If you act under an honest and reasonable mistake of fact, you are not guilty of a crime.19
Example: If you are accused of stealing your neighbor’s lawnmower – but you did so because you believed it was the one you previously lent him that he never returned to you – then you are not guilty of theft.
However, the old adage is also true: ignorance of the law is not a defense.20 This means that you cannot break a law just because you do not know it is a law.
Example: If you buy alcohol for a minor, prosecutors could charge you with contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The fact that you did not know such conduct was illegal will not excuse your actions.
For a further discussion, visit our page on mistake of fact or law as a legal defense in California criminal law.
The California legal defense of “necessity” excuses criminal conduct when it is done only to avoid an even greater harm.
If you reasonably believe that you or another person are about to suffer significant bodily harm – and there is no other reasonable legal alternative to engaging in the criminal conduct – you may be entitled to an acquittal of the charged offense(s).21
Example: Suppose someone is chasing you and trying to kill you. You charge up to a random house, break through a window, take shelter and call 911. Normally breaking into a house might constitute trespass, burglary and Penal Code 594 vandalism.22 Though here, your actions would probably be excused as being done out of necessity.
Necessity is another California legal defense that must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence. 23
For a detailed discussion, visit our page on the “necessity defense” in California criminal law.
13. Parents’ right to discipline a child
Parents have a legal right to discipline their children in a reasonable manner, which includes inflicting corporal (or physical) punishment.
If you are accused of
- Penal Code 273d, California’s child abuse law, or
- Penal Code 273a, California’s child endangerment law,
you may be entitled to an acquittal if you can demonstrate that your acts were not unreasonable or unjustified under the circumstances.24
14. Police misconduct
It is not at all uncommon to see acts of misconduct, abuse and excessive force by California police, such as
- planting evidence
- lying or embellishing facts in their crime reports or courtroom testimony, or
- unnecessarily using tasers or pepper spray on cooperative subjects
When we can identify and prove such acts of police misconduct, it may give us leverage towards winning your criminal case. It may also allow us to
- press civil rights claims and
- seek money damages.
15. Self-defense / defense of others
Under California’s self-defense law, if you injure or kill another person in self-defense or in defending another person, your conduct will be excused. Though your actions must be reasonable under the circumstances.25
In other words, if you
- believe that you or another person face imminent danger and
- only use as much force as is reasonably necessary to alleviate that danger,
then you have a valid claim of self-defense.
(Note that self-defense is not an affirmative defense; therefore, the defendant does not have the burden of proof to show they acted in self-defense. Instead, once a defendant raises self-defense, the prosecutor has the additional burden of proof to show that the defendant did not act in self-defense.)
If you are unconscious while you commit a crime, California law excuses your actions.26 This legal defense is applicable to people who, for example, commit criminal acts while
- suffering from an epileptic seizure, or
- who are involuntarily intoxicated.
If you commit a crime while unconscious or sleeping – but while voluntarily intoxicated – you will still be held criminally liable. The most common example of this is “sleep-driving” while under the influence of Ambien or Lunesta27.
17. Voluntary and involuntary intoxication
Voluntary intoxication does not typically serve as a valid criminal defense. Though it may bear on whether you possessed the requisite mental state to commit certain “specific intent” crimes.
“Specific intent” means that you specifically intended the consequences of your act. California theft offenses are examples of “specific intent” crimes.28
While “unconsciousness” generally serves as a legal defense to a crime29 (discussed above), this is not the case if your unconsciousness stemmed from voluntary intoxication.30
Example: Unconsciousness may give you a defense to a vehicular manslaughter charge if you fell asleep at the wheel. Though if you passed out at the wheel due to drug or alcohol consumption, it probably would not.
Involuntary intoxication generally provides a complete defense to most any crime. This would be the case if, for example,
- someone secretly slipped a drug in your drink or
- a doctor prescribed you a sedative without warning you of the side effects.
You are only “involuntarily” intoxicated if you did not voluntarily consume any alcohol and/or drugs.31 If, for example, you voluntarily smoked a joint – but did not realize that it was actually laced with PCP – you cannot then claim involuntary intoxication.32
For a more detailed discussion, visit our page on drug or alcohol intoxication as a legal defense in California criminal law.
Call us for help…
If you or a loved one is in need of help with legal defenses and you are looking to hire an attorney for representation, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group. We can provide a consultation in the office or by phone. Our criminal defense lawyers handle all types of cases ranging from theft and DUI to violent crimes and white collar crimes.
We have local offices in Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena, Long Beach, Orange County, Ventura, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside, San Diego, Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and throughout California. (See our related article on felony defenses).
We additionally have criminal law offices in Las Vegas and Reno. Please contact our Nevada criminal defense attorneys for questions relating to Nevada’s legal defenses.33
- California Penal Code 26 PC — Persons capable of committing crime; exceptions. (“All persons are capable of committing crimes except those belonging to the following classes… Five–Persons who committed the act or made the omission charged through misfortune or by accident, when it appears that there was no evil design, intention, or culpable negligence… ”)
See also California Jury Instructions-Criminal. CALCRIM 3404 Accident.
- People v. Odom (1991) 226 Cal.App.3d 1028 summarizes California’s definition of criminal negligence. (“[“Criminal negligence” refers to negligent conduct which is aggravated, reckless or flagrant and which is such a departure from the conduct of an ordinarily prudent, careful person under the same circumstances as to be contrary to a proper regard for [human life] [danger to human life] or to constitute indifference to the consequences of that conduct. The facts must be such that the consequences of the negligent conduct could reasonably have been foreseen and it must appear that the [death] [danger to human life] was not the result of inattention, mistaken judgment or misadventure but the natural and probable result of aggravated, reckless or flagrantly negligent conduct.]”)
- California Vehicle Code 23152 VC — Driving under the influence (DUI). (“(a) It is unlawful for any person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage or drug, or under the combined influence of any alcoholic beverage and drug, to drive a vehicle. (b) It is unlawful for any person who has 0.08 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood to drive a vehicle.”)
- California Penal Code 26 PC — Persons capable of committing crime; legal defenses. (“All persons are capable of committing crimes except those belonging to the following classes… Six–Persons (unless the crime be punishable with death) who committed the act or made the omission charged under threats or menaces sufficient to show that they had reasonable cause to and did believe their lives would be endangered if they refused.”)
- People v. Steele (1988) 206 Cal.App.3d 703, 706.(“The [California legal] defense of duress, unlike the necessity justification, requires that the threat or menace be accompanied by a direct or implied demand that the defendant commits the criminal act charged.”)
- California Penal Code 187 — Murder. (“(a) Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being, or a fetus, with malice aforethought.”)
- People v. Anderson (2002) 28 Cal.4th 767, 770. (“… fear for one’s own life does not justify killing an innocent person. Duress is not a [California legal] defense to murder.”)
- See same at 784. (“On a final point, we note, contrary to the Attorney General’s argument, that duress can, in effect, provide a defense to murder on a felony-murder theory by negating the underlying felony. (See People v. Anderson (1991) 233 Cal.App.3d 1646, 1666-1667, fn. 18, 285 Cal.Rptr. 523; Perkins & Boyce, Criminal Law, supra, ch. 9, § 2, pp. 1058-1059; LaFave, Criminal Law, supra, § 5.3(b), pp. 468-469.) If one is not guilty of the underlying felony due to duress, one cannot be guilty of [the California] felony murder [rule] based on that felony. Here, for example, the court instructed the jury that duress could be a defense to the kidnapping charge. It also instructed on felony murder with kidnapping as the underlying felony. If the jury had found the defendant not guilty of kidnapping due to duress (it did not), it could not have found that he killed during the commission of that kidnapping. Defendant could not have killed during the perpetration of a crime of which he was innocent.”)
See also California Penal Code 189 – Murder. (“All murder which is perpetrated by means of a destructive device or explosive, a weapon of mass destruction, knowing use of ammunition designed primarily to penetrate metal or armor, poison, lying in wait, torture, or by any other kind of willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing, or which is committed in the perpetration of, or attempt to perpetrate, arson, rape, carjacking, robbery, burglary, mayhem, kidnapping, train wrecking, or any act punishable under [California Penal Code] Section 206, 286, 288, 287, or 289, or any murder which is perpetrated by means of discharging a firearm from a motor vehicle, intentionally at another person outside of the vehicle with the intent to inflict death, is murder of the first degree. All other kinds of murders are of the second degree.”)
See also People v. Cavitt (2004) 33 Cal.4th 187, 197. (“The purpose of the felony-murder rule is to deter those who commit the enumerated felonies from killing by holding them strictly responsible for any killing committed by a co-felon, whether intentional, negligent, or accidental, during the perpetration or attempted perpetration of the felony. ( Burton, supra, 6 Cal.3d at p. 388, 99 Cal.Rptr. 1, 491 P.2d 793.))
- People v. Barraza, (1979) 23 Cal.3d 675, 689. (Summarizing California’s entrapment defense… “A person is entrapped if a law enforcement officer [or (his/her) agent] engaged in conduct that would cause a normally law-abiding person to commit the crime.”)
See also CALCRIM 3408 — Entrapment. (“It is a [California legal] defense to a criminal charge that the commission of the alleged criminal act, was induced by the conduct of law enforcement agents or officers [or persons acting under their direction, suggestion or control] when the conduct would likely induce a normally law-abiding person to commit the crime. To establish this defense the defendant has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the conduct of the law enforcement agents or officers [or persons acting under their direction, suggestion or control] would likely induce a normally law-abiding person to commit the crime.”)
- California sex offenses and California drug crimes are areas of the law that often involve undercover sting operations. These officers are placed undercover in an effort to “catch” criminals in the act of engaging in Penal Code 647(b), California’s prostitution law, Penal Code 647(a) lewd acts in public, Penal Code 311 child pornography, and buying, selling, and possessing illegal substances, more commonly referred to as drugs.
- See same.
- See CALCRIM 3408, endnote 10, above.
- Van Nuys criminal defense attorneys know the most effective ways to present California legal defenses. Shouse Law Group defends clients throughout Los Angeles and Ventura County, including the Ventura Hall of Justice, the Van Nuys courthouse, the Pasadena courthouse, the Burbank courthouse, the Glendale courthouse, the Lancaster courthouse, the San Fernando courthouse, and the Criminal Courts Building.
- Because California domestic violence cases and California Penal Code 273d child abuse cases often arise out of emotional, highly-charged situations, partners, spouses, and even children are frequently guilty of making false accusations in an effort to gain an upper hand over the accused.
- California Penal Code 25 – Insanity as a California legal defense. (“… (b) In any criminal proceeding, including any juvenile court proceeding, in which a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity is entered, this defense shall be found by the trier of fact only when the accused person proves by a preponderance of the evidence that he or she was incapable of knowing or understanding the nature and quality of his or her act and of distinguishing right from wrong at the time of the commission of the offense.”)
See also People v. Horn (1984) 158 Cal.App.3d 1014, 1032. (“Accordingly, we hold that Penal Code section 25, subdivision (b), reinstates the California M’Naghten right and wrong test as the standard for the insanity defense in this state.”… and at 1027, “The liberalization of the M’Naghten rule, which we have already described, reached its zenith in Wolff. There the court approved this “commendably broad interpretation upon the M’Naghten ‘knowledge’ test: …’The test of sanity is this: First, did the defendant have sufficient mental capacity to know and understand what he was doing, and second, did he know and understand that it was wrong and a violation of the rights of another?”’ ( People v. Wolff, supra., 61 Cal.2d at p. 801; italics in original.) As can be seen, this test of sanity uses the conjunctive “and” construction. Conversely, the test of insanity necessarily must use the disjunctive “or” form. In order to be sane, “’the defendant must be able to know and understand the nature and quality of his act and to distinguish between right and wrong at the time of the commission of the offense.”’ ( Ibid., italics in original.) Thus if a defendant knows and understands the nature and quality of his act but does not know it is wrong, he is, by definition, insane. Hence the reciprocal tests of sanity and insanity were correctly stated in CALJIC No. 4.00 (3d ed. 1970): “If you find that the defendant was capable of knowing and understanding the nature and quality of his act and, in addition, was capable of knowing and understanding that his act was wrong, you will find that he was legally sane. However, if you find that the defendant was not capable of knowing or understanding the nature and quality of his act, you will find that he was legally insane; or, if you find that he was incapable of knowing or understanding that his act was wrong, you will find that he was legally insane.” The confusion over the correct usage of the conjunctive/disjunctive form of the M’Naghten rule thus arises from the failure to distinguish between the alternative definitions of sanity and insanity. This not uncommon confusion is evident in the Proposition 8 formulation of the M’Naghten test. We accept this blurred statement for what it appears to be, a careless draft… ”) This case goes into a lengthy discussion of whether the test requires a defendant to meet both prongs or simply one – although the test says “and”, the court held that was the result of “careless drafting” and requires only that a defendant meet one of the prongs of the M’Naghten test (that is, Penal Code 25(b)).
See also CALCRIM 3450 — Insanity: Determination, Effect of Verdict. (“The defendant was legally insane if: 1. When (he/she) committed the crime[s], (he/she) had a mental disease or defect; AND 2. Because of that disease or defect, (he/she) was incapable of knowing or understanding the nature and quality of (his/her) act or was incapable of knowing or understanding that (his/her) act was morally or legally wrong.”)
- See Penal Code 25(b), endnote 16, above.
- A motion to suppress evidence is made via at Penal Code 1538.5 hearing. California Penal Code 1538.5 — Motion to return property or suppress evidence. (“(a)(1) A defendant may move for the return of property or to suppress as evidence any tangible or intangible thing obtained as a result of a search or seizure on either of the following grounds: (A) The search or seizure without a warrant was unreasonable…”)
- Penal Code 368, California’s elder abuse law penalizes a variety of physical, emotional, and financial that are committed against persons who are 65 years or older.
- CALCRIM 3406 — Mistake of fact. (“The defendant is not guilty of <insert crime[s]> if (he/she) did not have the intent or mental state required to commit the crime because (he/she) [reasonably] did not know a fact or [reasonably and] mistakenly believed a fact. If the defendant’s conduct would have been lawful under the facts as (he/she) [reasonably] believed them to be, (he/she) did not commit <insert crime[s]>. If you find that the defendant believed that <insert alleged mistaken facts> [and if you find that belief was reasonable], (he/she) did not have the specific intent or mental state required for <insert crime[s]>. If you have a reasonable doubt about whether the defendant had the specific intent or mental state required for <insert crime[s]>, you must find (him/her) not guilty of (that crime/those crimes).”)
- CALCRIM 3407 — Defenses: Mistake of Law. (“It is not a defense to the crime[s] of <insert crime[s]> that the defendant did not know (he/she) was breaking the law or that (he/ she) believed (his/her) act was lawful.”)
- CALCRIM 3403 – Necessity. (“The defendant is not guilty of <insert crime[s]> if (he/she) acted because of legal necessity. In order to establish this defense, the defendant must prove that: 1. (He/She) acted in an emergency to prevent a significant bodily harm or evil to (himself/herself/ [or] someone else); 2. (He/She) had no adequate legal alternative; 3. The defendant’s acts did not create a greater danger than the one avoided; 4. When the defendant acted, (he/she) actually believed that the act was necessary to prevent the threatened harm or evil; 5. A reasonable person would also have believed that the act was necessary under the circumstances; AND 6. The defendant did not substantially contribute to the emergency. The defendant has the burden of proving this defense by a preponderance of the evidence. This is a different standard of proof than proof beyond a reasonable doubt. To meet the burden of proof by a preponderance of the evidence, the defendant must prove that it is more likely than not that each of the six listed items is true.”)
- California Penal Code 594 PC — Vandalism. (“(a) Every person who maliciously commits any of the following acts with respect to any real or personal property not his or her own, in cases other than those specified by state law, is guilty of vandalism: (1) Defaces with graffiti or other inscribed material. (2) Damages. (3) Destroys.”)
- See same.
- CALCRIM 3405 — Parent’s Right to Punish a Child. (“A (parent/guardian/ <insert title of other person legally permitted to discipline the child>) is not guilty of <insert crime> if (he/she) used (justifiable physical force/ [(a/or) another] justifiable method) to discipline a child. (Physical force/ [or] <insert other method of punishment>) is justifiable if a reasonable person would find that punishment was necessary under the circumstances and that the (physical force/ [or] method) used was reasonable. The People must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the (force/ [or] method of punishment) used was not justifiable. If the People have not met this burden, you must find the defendant not guilty of <insert crime>.”)
See also Penal Code 273(a), California’s child endangerment law. (“(a) Any person who, under circumstances or conditions likely to produce great bodily harm or death, willfully causes or permits any child to suffer, or inflicts thereon unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering, or having the care or custody of any child, willfully causes or permits the person or health of that child to be injured, or willfully causes or permits that child to be placed in a situation where his or her person or health is endangered, shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or in the state prison for two, four, or six years. (b) Any person who, under circumstances or conditions other than those likely to produce great bodily harm or death, willfully causes or permits any child to suffer, or inflicts thereon unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering, or having the care or custody of any child, willfully causes or permits the person or health of that child to be injured, or willfully causes or permits that child to be placed in a situation where his or her person or health may be endangered, is guilty of a misdemeanor.”)
- CALCRIM 3470 – California’s legal right to self-defense or defense of another (Non-Homicide). (California’s self-defense law states “The defendant acted in lawful (self-defense/ [or] defense of another) if:  The defendant reasonably believed that (he/she/ [or] someone else/ [or] <insert name of third party<) was in imminent danger of suffering bodily injury [or was in imminent danger of being touched unlawfully];  The defendant reasonably believed that the immediate use of force was necessary to defend against that danger; AND  The defendant used no more force than was reasonably necessary to defend against that danger.”)
See also CALCRIM 505 — Justifiable Homicide: Self-Defense or Defense of Another. (“The defendant acted in lawful (self-defense/ [or] defense of another) if:  The defendant reasonably believed that (he/she/ [or] someone else/ [or] <insert name or description of third party<) was in imminent danger of being killed or suffering great bodily injury [or was in imminent danger of being (raped/maimed/robbed/ <insert other forcible and atrocious crime<)];  The defendant reasonably believed that the immediate use of deadly force was necessary to defend against that danger; AND  The defendant used no more force than was reasonably necessary to defend against that danger.”)
- California Penal Code 26 PC — Persons capable of committing crime; California legal defenses. (“All persons are capable of committing crimes except those belonging to the following classes… Four–Persons who committed the act charged without being conscious thereof.”)
See also CALCRIM 3425 — Unconsciousness. (“The defendant is not guilty of <insert crime[s]> if (he/she) acted while unconscious. Someone is unconscious when he or she is not conscious of his or her actions. [Someone may be unconscious even though able to move.] Unconsciousness may be caused by (a blackout[,]/ [or] an epileptic seizure[,]/ [or] involuntary intoxication[,]/ [or] <insert a similar condition>). [The defense of unconsciousness may not be based on voluntary intoxication.] The People must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was conscious when (he/she) acted. If there is proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant acted as if (he/she) were conscious, you should conclude that (he/she) was conscious, unless based on all the evidence, you have a reasonable doubt that (he/she) was conscious, in which case you must find (him/her) not guilty.”)
- Driving under the influence of a sleep aid is prosecuted just like any other California DUI case. A conviction subjects the driver to the same penalties and punishment as any other DUI driver.
- California theft offenses require the specific intent to permanently deprive an owner of his/her property.
- California Penal Code 26 PC — Persons capable of committing crime; exceptions. (“All persons are capable of committing crimes except those belonging to the following classes… Four–Persons who committed the act charged without being conscious thereof…”)
- People v. Walker (1993) 14 Cal.App.4th 1615, 1621. (“Unconsciousness caused by voluntary intoxication is, however, governed by section 22, not section 26. (People v. Conley (1966) 64 Cal.2d 310, 323-324, 49 Cal.Rptr. 815, 411 P.2d 911.) Although voluntary intoxication may at times amount to unconsciousness, it cannot give a complete defense under [California Penal Code] section 26, subdivision 4; it can only negate specific intent under section 22.”)
- CALCRIM 3427 — Involuntary Intoxication. (“Consider any evidence that the defendant was involuntarily intoxicated in deciding whether the defendant had the required (intent/ [or] mental state) when (he/she) acted. A person is involuntarily intoxicated if he or she unknowingly ingested some intoxicating liquor, drug, or other substance, or if his or her intoxication is caused by the (force/[, [or] duress/, [or] fraud/, [or] trickery of someone else), for whatever purpose[, without any fault on the part of the intoxicated person].”)
- People v. Velez (1985) 175 Cal.App.3d 785, 796.
- Our Nevada criminal defense attorneys Michael Becker and Neil Shouse are available to answer any questions relating to Nevada legal defenses. Please contact them at Shouse Law Group for more information.