Penal Code § 198.5 PC sets forth California’s Castle doctrine. This is the legal principle in which residents are presumed to have a reasonable fear of death or great bodily injury if an intruder (who is not a family or household member) forcibly enters their home. Therefore, it may be deemed a justifiable homicide if the resident kills or injures the intruder in self-defense.
The full text of the statute reads as follows:
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.
California Penal Code 198.5 PC spells out the state’s Castle Doctrine. In general, under California law, people in their home may lawfully kill or injure intruders in their home if the following three elements are true:
- The intruder or burglar unlawfully and forcibly enters or attempts to enter the residence;
- The resident reasonably believed that the intruder unlawfully and forcibly entered or was entering the residence; and
- The intruder was not a member of the household or family.1
In short, California law presumes that residents have a reasonable fear of imminent peril or death when the above three conditions have been met. And therefore, it may be a justifiable homicide if the resident kills the intruder. The resident does not need to show the court that the intruder had a weapon, attacked anyone, or made any threats.2
Note that an unenclosed front porch does not count as a residence under California’s castle doctrine. So even if an intruder enters an unenclosed front porch with violent intentions, the castle doctrine would not apply because the intruder had not yet tried to enter the home itself. And if the resident injured or killed the intruder on the porch, there would be no legal presumption that the resident reasonably feared that any household members would be killed or severely injured – the resident would have to rely on regular self-defense grounds to justify using force against the intruder.3
See our related article on stand your ground laws.
- California Penal Code 198.5 PC – Presumption in favor of one who uses deadly force against intruder. People v. Silvey (1997) 58 Cal. App. 4th 1320. See also Penal Code 195 PC, Penal Code 196 PC, and Penal Code 197 PC.
- Same. See People v. Wilson (Cal. App. 3d Dist., 2021). See People v. Brown (1992) 6 Cal. App. 4th 1489. See also People v. Chen (Cal. App. 4th Dist., 2020) 50 Cal. App. 5th 952.