Deadly Force Justified in CA

In a scenario where an unknown person rushes you aggressively, forcefully and quickly but shows no other sign of motive or means is it legal to shoot them in CA? I know its not justified but just confirming for a family member who felt that:

“If someone is coming at me and there is no way out they will be met with force. That’s is a threat to your life. Subjective as it may be. Lawyers will argue for or against it. It’s a life or death situation that I pray we never have the necessity to deal with. But don’t be naive.”

I said you should not engage he said you should. Any thoughts?

As you think about the situation, recall the recurring advice from John Correia (Active Self Protection): Do not ask can I? or should I?; the correct question is must I shoot?


Let me rephrase.

That amount of information is not enough to give a legitimate response or attempt at an answer.

I am not a lawyer and cannot interpret the law or given legal advice. Generally, nationwide, the idea behind justified lethal force in self defense is a reasonable fear of imminent serious bodily harm or death, you didn’t create the scenario/initiate/be the aggressor/etc, and it’s not safely avoidable through non-lethal means.

You’d have to stipulate a lot more of the facts and details around this case to get into meaningful discussion, otherwise (hell even with more info), the best anybody can do is “maybe” or “it depends”. I’d go with “probably not”, but there isn’t enough info to say.

Ask a lawyer and bring more facts of the scenario


Okay I appreciate the feedback. Yes this is a hypothetical situation, might look something like this.

You are getting out of the car in the parking lot of your local supermarket. As you step out and place both feet on the ground a hooded individual of equal stature starts sprinting at you from 10 feet away. You are wedged between the door and the open driver side of the car and you don’t have time to hop in the car or escape because you are facing outward. The person appears to be unarmed but you don’t know them and fear for your life. Is not knowing what they could have or the fear of what might happened if you don’t engage enough?

I was always trained simply NOT KNOWING what they have or the fear of what they might do is NOT JUSTIFIED.

Which would mean you would have to let them run right up to you and maybe they would stop 1 inch from your nose ad a part of a prank, or maybe its an old buddy from highschool that is playing a prank on you or a special needs person…

You have to wait until the person forcefully rushing you out of the blue displays a knife, a gun, a bat, their fists and it is 100% clear that they are trying to kill you. Right?

Define “engage”

Your title is asking about deadly force. The vast majority of assaults do not rise to the level of deadly force.

Non deadly or normal force or whatever your state calls it is an entirely different discussion than deadly or lethal force.

A seemingly unarmed person of equal stature no other known discrepancies etc rushing you like that would seem to me to present a threat to a reasonable person and justify some sort of response. Lethal force? Almost surely no. I’d recommend starting by moving laterally to get out from behind the door. This assumes you couldn’t opt to not open the door and step out with the hooded stranger standing 10 feet away from your door in the parking lot (park somewhere else or don’t get out yet, etc) really I think this is a situational awareness fail but things happen and you can’t just not go where there are people and maybe he just got out of his car etc etc I get it.

BTW IMO pepper spray is an extremely valuable and under-utilized under-appreciated tool that most should probably carry

Again, I’m not a lawyer and I cannot give legal advice or interpret the law.


Thank you sir! That is helpful. Yes, I meant use deadly force for engage. Going straight for the deadly force would not be appropriate. Thanks for the clarification.

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Utah Stand Your Ground Law

Effective 5/4/2022
76-2-402. Force in defense of person – Forcible felony defined.

(1) As used in this section:

(a) “Forcible felony” means aggravated assault, mayhem, aggravated murder, murder, manslaughter, kidnapping and aggravated kidnapping, rape, forcible sodomy, rape of a child, object rape, object rape of a child, sexual abuse of a child, aggravated sexual abuse of a child, and aggravated sexual assault as defined in Chapter 5, Offenses Against the Individual, and arson, robbery, and burglary as defined in Chapter 6, Offenses Against Property.

(b) “Forcible felony” includes any other felony offense that involves the use of force or violence against an individual that poses a substantial danger of death or serious bodily injury.

(c) “Forcible felony” does not include burglary of a vehicle, as defined in Section 76-6-204, unless the vehicle is occupied at the time unlawful entry is made or attempted.

(2) (a) An individual is justified in threatening or using force against another individual when and to the extent that the individual reasonably believes that force or a threat of force is necessary to defend the individual or another individual against the imminent use of unlawful force.

(b) An individual is justified in using force intended or likely to cause death or serious bodily injury only if the individual reasonably believes that force is necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury to the individual or another individual as a result of imminent use of unlawful force, or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

Around here, it comes down to, can I convince a jury that I “Reasonably” needed to use a certain level of force to stop the attack. I suppose, if you were 86 years old, 5’-4" weighing in at 85# and the person rushing you was 6’-6" 355# you could argue that you needed to respond in a serious manner. But equal equal could certainly make it a tough sell.


Thanks! What about the neighborhood you are in. Every situation/setting is different. Would it matter if I was in Oakland Ca at night in the worst neighborhood in CA and somebody rushed me and I couldn’t escape?

I was thinking there is NO setting or NO situation in the world where drawing and using deadly force on somebody who was just running at you who appeared unarmed would be justified. I would have to wait and see what they do first if they actually swing at me or pull out a weapon last second and say I am going to kill you! That obviously would be justified, but other than that I was thinking no. We would just have to wait and let the person come up to us and see what they do before making our decision in Ca. Hopefully we have enough time to process that, from videos I have seen online people are little chance to react.

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I don’t think you have to wait to get injured before you defend yourself. That’s where the

Parts becomes very important. What would a reasonable person have done in a similar situation.


There are options other than stand there to wait to see what they do, and use lethal force. Binary thinking that’s either nothing or shooting is not how the real world works.

Move, keep/create space, use your hands, consider pepper spray, and more


Thank you gentlemen that is helpful!

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Part of the and more are simple verbal commands in a forceful, loud voice - examples being: Stop! Back Away! Don’t come any closer!


Unfortunately sometimes people think that way. They either do nothing or go with extremum. Self-preservation is in each of us, but proper thinking and training is more important here.


I appreciate the insight.

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In using force on someone. There are 2 words that are key in your decision. They are reasonable and articulable. There is a caveat with the reasonable person argument. That being the reasonable is based off of you. So my reasonable person would be much different than someone else’s reasonable. I’m pointing this out because that will be a point your defense will have to set in the course of events.

Using myself as an example: My reasonable man is disabled, has Addisons ( a rare disorder, 1 in 100,000),can be triggered by stress, and has a high probability of death if having an Addisons crisis and you don’t get treated (within 3-5 minutes.), and various other issues.

So my reasonable person has to take into account that I could die or go into coma, just due to a high enough level stressor.

So what may seem to be an innocent or innocuous behavior for one may not be that innocent or innocuous.

That is where you have to take in the reasonable and articulable portion of self defense for another. My condition is controlled by my medication, but if something happens that elevates my stress above a certain point. My condition is a factor of my everyday life.

NO setting or NO situation in the world

It becomes a little grayer than you might think, when you have to take in certain considerations that may not be immediately observable.


This :point_up:t4:
I would also suggest spending more time with your family member discussing situational awareness.

That brings you back a few precious seconds or minutes before the hypothetical scenario.

Scan the parking lot while looking for a spot, before getting out of the car, before closing the door.
It could buy time to give a verbal command like,
“that’s close enough!” while covering CC piece without brandishing.


Wow, did not think I was going to get this much advice in the same day. Grateful for this space. Thanks!


Somehow noone commented (or I missed the comment) that it may be physically impossible to present a weapon and shoot when someone rushes you from 10ft away. Tueller drill.

So you need to react differently for effective defence. Move laterally, run to put your car between yourself and the attacker. As you do it, his or her intentions will become clearer. Will the attacker turn around, or get verbal, or continue physical attack? Reassess and react with more confidence than initial circumstances permitted.


Space and Time for sure, two very important concepts in the fighting world.