Self Defense: Presumption of Reasonableness Applies Even If Judge Finds That Defendant Was Not Legally Subletting the Residence
August 3rd, 2016

People v. Grays (2016) 246 CA4th 679 held that the trial court erred when it refused to instruct the jury that a person using force within his residence against a person who forcibly enters shall be presumed to have held a reasonable fear of injury to self or another member of the household (PC 198.5). The court refused the instruction on the ground that the presumption does not apply to a person who is not a lawful resident of the home.

The reviewing court concluded that PC 198.5 was intended to give residential occupants additional protection where they are confronted by unlawful intruders in their home. The Legislature did not intend to restrict the application of section 198.5 to those who actually own their homes. If the jury believed Grays’ testimony that he was living in the residence, it could have found he had a reasonable expectation of protection against unwanted intruders. Although the trial court found that Grays was not legally subletting the unit, the evidence showed he had been living in the home for months, paid rent, kept his belongings there, and had access to a key to the home. The trial court therefore erred in refusing to instruct pursuant to section 198.5.

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