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‘Big Little Lies’ Finale – California Self Defense Laws

If you are a fan of the hit HBO show, “Big Little Lies”, you most likely tuned in for the final episode of Season 2 last night. This episode was drama-filled, ending with the five main characters, Bonnie, Celeste, Madeline, Renata, and Jane, walking into the police station to most likely confess to the murder of Perry Wright.

Perry Wright, Celeste’s abusive husband, was found dead at the bottom of a staircase at the end of Season 1. Not knowing whether his death was an accident or murder, Season 2 cleared things up when it was made known that Bonnie had pushed him in order to protect her friend, Celeste.

As this show takes place in Los Angeles, it poses the question: If Bonnie is charged with involuntary manslaughter for Perry Wright’s death, can she use the defense strategy known as “defense of others”?

Self Defense in California

Before breaking down what “defense of others” is, it is important to define self-defense and go over the laws surrounding it in California.

In short, self-defense means that you used violence or force against another person in order to protect yourself from imminent harm or danger. When used as a defense, you will argue affirmative defense, which means you admit that you engaged in a certain behavior, but you only did so because you had no other choice.

In Los Angeles, self-defense can be a legitimate defense to many crimes, some being:

California Self Defense Laws

Although there is no section of the California Penal Code that outlines a person’s right to act in self-defense, the state’s jury instructions permit a defendant to assert the defense in a criminal matter. This means that after a jury reviews all relevant testimony and evidence, they may find that the violent behavior is excusable given the circumstances.

Under Section 505 of California’s Criminal Jury Instructions, a defendant must prove the following to successfully argue self-defense:

  1. They reasonably believed that they were in imminent danger of being harmed;
  2. They reasonably believed that the imminent use or force was necessary to defend against that danger; and
  3. They only used the amount of force that was reasonably necessary to defend against that danger.

Self Defense of Others

Now, bringing this back to “Big Little Lies”, the question remains: If charged with involuntary manslaughter, should Bonnie be found not guilty because of the “defense of others” circumstance?

In the state of California, you not only have the right to defend yourself from imminent danger, but also have the right to protect others. Therefore, for Bonnie to succeed, she would have to prove three things:

  1. She had reason to believe the other person was in imminent danger;
  2. She had reason to believe that the use of reasonable force was necessary to prevent harm; and
  3. She only used the amount of force necessary to prevent harm.

Fighting Criminal Charges in Los Angeles

We will leave it up to you to decide if you believe Bonnie can or cannot argue “defense of others”. In the meantime, if you have been arrested for committing a violent crime in Los Angeles but were acting in defense of yourself or another person, contact us today. Our criminal defense lawyers at Premier Federal Criminal Defenders will help you fight any criminal charges brought against you. We have the experience to establish that your fear of imminent danger was reasonable and use that to protect your freedom.

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