You may have recently read in the Press Democrat about the recent death of one of three men who attempted a home invasion robbery.(http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/3637007-181/alleged-santa-rosa-home-invader-recovering.) One of the occupants of the home began shooting and apparently killed one of the robbers. According to California Law, the shooter was justified if the following conditions were met: (1) it was apparently necessary to shoot based on an honest and reasonable belief of an imminent threat to his life, (2) the force used was reasonable under the circumstances, and (3) the threat to him was unlawful. To prove that first condition, the defendant must show that he was in fear of his life or serious bodily injury and that the conduct of the robbers was such that it was reasonable to be in such a state of fear. (People v. Sonier (1952) 113 Cal.App.2d 277, 278.) It should be fairly obvious that it is was reasonable to be in fear of his life when armed men tried to break into his house.
Was the force reasonable? Firing a gun at someone is considered to be the use of deadly force. Deadly force is justified only when the apparent peril is great and imminent. (People v. Anderson (1922) 57 Cal.App. 721, 727.) For instance, it is generally unjustifiable to use deadly force in response to a person trying to punch you. Deadly force may become justified if the person is beating you to death or the attacker is a known deadly assassin. Regarding the home invasion robbery, deadly force was certainly justified. The shooter was faced with unknown assailants trying to break in at night and whose motives could only be considered nefarious under the circumstances.
Finally, the last condition is also met since the threat the shooter (occupant) perceived was “unlawful” because the intruders were trying to rob him. Likely, the occupant who shot the robber will assert a successful self-defense and the killing will be found justified. However, that justification does not transfer to the decedent’s cohorts in crime who are being charged with murder pursuant to the felony-murder rule.
That rule states that if a co-conspirator is killed during the commission of the conspiracy, the other members of that conspiracy can be charged with that person’s murder even though killed by someone else in this case by the occupant. Further, the fact that the occupant of the home was justified in shooting the robber does not absolve him of the crime of unlawful cultivation of marijuana. Apparently, the robbers were after the shooter’s illegal marijuana grow. Nor does the justified shooting absolve that person of creating a dangerous environment for the children who lived at the home. He is now charged with child endangerment.
However, our Law Firm is prepared to defend the occupant of all charges including the lessor included offense of child endangerment or creating a dangerous environment or nuisance. Please feel free to contact Fiumara & Milligan Law, PC for a free and confidential consultation in either Santa Rosa or San Rafael by calling us at: (855) 247-3190.