Justifiable Homicide Law and Legal Definition

Justifiable homicides are "no fault" homicides. They ordinarily involve the death of someone under circumstances of necessity or duty (commanded or authorized by law). They are characterized by a lack of criminal intent and the person found to have committed a justifiable homicide is freed. They are distinguished from crimes of passion, which involves a lessening of the charge or sentence.

Justifiable homicide is not a crime. Defense of property is not by itself a defense against homicide, although a homicide where self-defense became necessary as a result of undertaking defense of property may be justifiable homicide. Examples of justifiable homicide would be self-defense, capital punishment, and police shootings.

Cal Pen Code § 197: Justifiable homicide by other persons

Homicide is also justifiable when committed by any person in any of the following cases:

1. When resisting any attempt to murder any person, or to commit a felony, or to do some great bodily injury upon any person; or,
2. When committed in defense of habitation, property, or person, against one who manifestly intends or endeavors, by violence or surprise, to commit a felony, or against one who manifestly intends and endeavors, in a violent, riotous or tumultuous manner, to enter the habitation of another for the purpose of offering violence to any person therein; or,
3. When committed in the lawful defense of such person, or of a wife or husband, parent, child, master, mistress, or servant of such person, when there is reasonable ground to apprehend a design to commit a felony or to do some great bodily injury, and imminent danger of such design being accomplished; but such person, or the person in whose behalf the defense was made, if he was the assailant or engaged in mutual combat, must really and in good faith have endeavored to decline any further struggle before the homicide was committed; or,
4. When necessarily committed in attempting, by lawful ways and means, to apprehend any person for any felony committed, or in lawfully suppressing any riot, or in lawfully keeping and preserving the peace.