The doctrine of transferred self-defense is available to insulate one from criminal responsibility where his or her act, justifiably in self-defense, inadvertently resulted in the injury of an innocent bystander. Under this doctrine, “just as one’s criminal intent follows the corresponding criminal act to its unintended consequences,” so too “one’s lack of criminal intent follows the corresponding non-criminal act to its unintended consequences.” (People v. Levitt (1984) 156 CA3d 500, 508 emphasis in original, citing People v. Mathews (1979) 91 CA3d 1018, 1023.)
In Mathews it was held that “the doctrine of self-defense is available to insulate a defendant from criminal responsibility where his act, justifiable in self-defense, inadvertently results in the injury of an innocent bystander.” This is a well-accepted principle of law. (See e.g., People v. Curtis (1994) 30 CA4th 1337, 1357; see Annotation, Unintentional killing of or injury to third person during attempted self-defense, 55 ALR3d 620 and Later Case Service.) The reason behind this principle is that just as intent follows the act to its natural and probable—albeit unintended—consequences, a defendant’s lack of criminal intent also follows the corresponding justifiable act to its unintended consequences. (Mathews, 91 CA3d at 1023.)
Accordingly, when appropriate, the self-defense and/or transferred intent instructions should incorporate the principle of transferred self-defense. (Cf., People v. Waxlax; E074347; 12/9/21; C/A 4th, Div. 2 [recognizing defense but concluding that the evidence did not support an instruction on it].)
*Add to self defense instruction:
If a person acts in the exercise of [his] [her] right of self-defense and by such act inadvertently [injures] [kills] an innocent bystander, the person has committed no crime against the bystander.
Self-defense is available to insulate a defendant from criminal responsibility where his or her act, justifiably in self-defense, inadvertently results in the death or injury of an innocent bystander. Hence, when one attempts to justifiably defend [himself] [herself], but by mistake or inadvertence kills or injures a different person, no crime has been committed.