How can homicide be justified? Ask the lawyer – Daily News
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How can homicide be justified? Ask the lawyer – Daily News

Q: A homicide means someone is killed. I have a hard time understanding how this can be justified.

TB, Campanula

How can homicide be justified? Ask the lawyer – Daily News
Ron Sokol

A: You are correct that homicide is the act of killing another person. Under California Penal Code Section 197, there are certain circumstances in which killing a person may be justified: (a) when you are acting in self-defense, (b) when you are defending your home or property, or (c) when you are attempting to make a citizen’s arrest or maintain the peace. Each of these defenses is subject to very careful evaluation.

Self-defense means that you were in imminent danger of serious bodily harm and, furthermore, you used only the level of force necessary to defend yourself.

With respect to the defense of your home or property, there was an intruder who intended to commit a violent crime, you reasonably believed that the threat of harm was imminent, and it was both reasonable for you to believe that deadly force was necessary, and the amount of force you used was reasonable.

The defense of citizen’s arrest means that a crime was committed that created a risk of death or serious bodily harm, and the offender posed a future danger to society. In law enforcement, you were trying by legal means to prevent a riot or violence from occurring.

Q: Can a homicide really be excusable or accidental? The prosecutor tells us that no criminal charges will be filed because my friend’s death was “excusable.”

FS, Lomita

A: You have not set out the circumstances that the prosecutor assessed. Keep in mind that a prosecutor has a clear order: he must not bring criminal charges against anyone without having an honest belief that the crime can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

An example of a suicide that might be considered excusable or accidental would be an act committed on a shooting range and (unfortunately) when someone ventures into the target area.

California Penal Code Section 195 provides that homicide is excusable (or may be considered accidental) when it is committed by accident and misfortune, or occurs in the execution of a lawful act by lawful means, with usual and ordinary care, and without any unlawful intent.

Another example: A swimming instructor is giving lessons to a young student, takes a short bathroom break, and returns to find that the student has drowned. It turns out that the student had an unexpected aneurysm, which no one could have predicted. Tragic, yes, but accidental.

Ron Sokol has been a lawyer for over 40 years and has also served as a pro tem judge, mediator and arbitrator on numerous occasions. It is important to keep in mind that this column presents a summary of the law and should not be considered legal advice, much less a substitute for actual consultation with a qualified professional.