Does Robbery Justify the Use of Deadly Force in Self Defense?
July 19th, 2022

PC 197 permits use of deadly force to prevent a felony only if the felony is “forcible and atrocious.” (People v. Morales (2021) 69 Cal.App.5th 978, 991.)

Forcible and atrocious crimes are generally those crimes whose character and manner reasonably create a fear of death or serious bodily harm. (People v. Ceballos (1974) 12 Cal.3d 470, 479.) In Ceballos, the court identified murder, mayhem, rape, and robbery as examples of forcible and atrocious crimes. (Id. at p. 478.) However, as noted in People v. Morales, supra, 69 Cal.App.5th at 992–993, Ceballos involved a burglary, not a robbery, and contemplated the traditional common law robbery, which, unlike the modern understanding of robbery in California, did not include situations where very little force or threat of force is involved. Morales concluded that “[a] robbery therefore cannot trigger the right to use deadly force in self-defense unless the circumstances of the robbery gave rise to a reasonable belief that the victim would suffer great bodily injury or death.” (Id. at 992.)


Accordingly, the CALCRIM committee has proposed a revision of CC 505 to address “noninherently forcible and atrocious” crimes such as robbery by limiting their applicability to “circumstances in which [the defendant] reasonably believed that (he/she) would suffer great bodily injury or death.”



Tags: , , , ,