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When Homicide Is Considered Excusable or Justified


If you were charged with homicide, you likely feel overwhelmed and frightened. The penalties for homicide in the State of California are severe; however, there are some cases where homicide is considered excusable or justified. Learn more about these circumstances below, and how to ensure your legal rights.

Murder vs. Manslaughter vs. Homicide

While these three terms are used interchangeably, they are legally different. Homicide may be criminal, excusable, or justified. Murder is a form of criminal homicide, where the person had an intention to kill another person. Manslaughter is another form of homicide that is classified as either voluntary, a killing with intent, but without premeditation (“in the heat of passion”), or involuntary, where an individual acted recklessly, and their actions caused the death of another person.

There are cases where homicide may be excusable or justified. If the court makes the determination that the homicide was excusable or justifiable, it will not be considered a criminal act, and criminal charges will not apply.


A person has authority under the law to kill another person in self-defense, but only if that person reasonably believes that the killing was necessary in order to prevent an imminent threat, death, or serious harm to himself or herself. The Judicial Council of California also provides very specific jury instructions that state that a person has the right to use deadly force to protect themselves; however, that right ends if an attacker stops the attack or no longer is able to inflict any serious injury.

Castle Doctrine

The State of California has the Castle Doctrine, which indicates that a homeowner has the right to use deadly force to protect his or her property and has no duty to retreat in any way. The Castle Doctrine rights terminate at the end of the property and the force used against an intruder must be equal to the harm reasonably feared.

Defense of Others

A person has the authority under the law to kill another person in defense of others, similar to the laws regarding self-defense.

Excusable Homicide

In some other types of cases, excusable homicide may be an applicable defense. For example, if a person begins or provokes a fight, and then subsequently attempts to withdraw from that fight but is unable to do so, and ends up using deadly force as a method of self-defense, that person may be able to plead for an excusable homicide defense. In these cases, the person must have shown that they tried to stop the fighting in good faith, indicated to the other person that they wanted to stop fighting (or had stopped fighting), and gave their opponent the chance to actually stop the fighting.

Contact an Experienced Defense Attorney Today

If you or a loved one were charged with homicide, contact the experienced defense attorneys today at the Law Office of Stein & Markus to discuss your legal rights and potential defenses. Contact us today to discuss your rights at (562) 512-7030 or online.

The post When Homicide Is Considered Excusable or Justified appeared first on Law Office of Stein & Markus | Attorney in Bellflower, CA.

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