Criminal Law

3476. Right to Defend Real or Personal Property

The owner [or possessor] of (real/ [or] personal) property may use reasonable force to protect that property from imminent harm. [A person may also use reasonable force to protect the property of a (family member/guest/master/servant/ward) from immediate harm.]

Reasonable force means the amount of force that a reasonable person in the same situation would believe is necessary to protect the property from imminent harm.

When deciding whether the defendant used reasonable force, consider all the circumstances as they were known to and appeared to the defendant and consider what a reasonable person in a similar situation with similar knowledge would have believed. If the defendant's beliefs were reasonable, the danger does not need to have actually existed.

The People have the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant used more force than was reasonable to protect property from imminent harm. If the People have not met this burden, you must find the defendant not guilty of <insert crime>.

Bench Notes

Instructional Duty

The court has a sua sponte duty to instruct on a defense when the defendant is relying on the defense, or if there is substantial evidence supporting the defense and it is not inconsistent with the defendant's theory of the case. (See People v. Breverman (1998) 19 Cal.4th 142, 156 [77 Cal.Rptr.2d 870, 960 P.2d 1094] [addressing court's sua sponte instructional duties on defenses and lesser included offenses generally].)

Related Instructions

CALCRIM No. 3475, Right to Eject Trespasser From Real Property.

CALCRIM No. 3477, Presumption That Resident Was Reasonably Afraid of Death or Great Bodily Injury.

CALCRIM No. 506, Justifiable Homicide: Defending Against Harm to Person Within Home or on Property.


Instructional Requirements. See Civ. Code, § 50; Boyer v. Waples (1962) 206 Cal.App.2d 725, 727 [24 Cal.Rptr. 192].

Burden of Proof. See Boyer v. Waples (1962) 206 Cal.App.2d 725, 727 [24 Cal.Rptr. 192] [civil action].

Secondary Sources

1 Witkin & Epstein, California Criminal Law (3d ed. 2000) Defenses, § 78.

3 Millman, Sevilla & Tarlow, California Criminal Defense Practice, Ch. 73, Defenses and Justifications, § 73.13 (Matthew Bender).

(New January 2006)