People v. Ceballos

12 Cal. 3d 470, 116 Cal. Rptr. 233, 526 P.2d 241 (1974)



Killing or use of deadly force to prevent a felony is justified only if the offense is a forcible and atrocious crime. Examples of forcible and atrocious crimes are murder, mayhem, rape, and robbery. In such crimes human life or personal safety from great harm either is, or is presumed to be, in peril.


Defendant was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon when a trap gun mounted in his garage discharged a bullet and hit a teenager in the face. Defendant contended that the teen was a burglar and he was lawfully defending his property. The court convicted defendant and on appeal, the appellate court affirmed his conviction.


Was defendant justified in shooting the alleged burglar?




The character and manner of the alleged burglary did not reasonably create a fear of great bodily harm and therefore there was no cause for the use of deadly force. It further held that deadly force could not be used solely for the protection of property. The court discouraged defendant's use of a trap gun to protect his property saying that deadly mechanical devices are without mercy and discretion.


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