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People v. Ceballos

12 Cal. 3d 470 (1974)

tl;dr: Deadly force is not justified where there is no threat of bodily harm.

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The case of "The People v. Don Louis Ceballos" involved the defendant being found guilty of assault with a deadly weapon for shooting a teenager who was attempting to burglarize his garage. The defendant had set up a trap gun in his garage, which discharged when the garage door was opened, hitting the teenager in the face. The court found that the use of excessive force was not justified, despite the defendant's argument that he was protecting his property. The defendant's appeal was denied, and the judgment was affirmed. The case raised the issue of criminal liability for the use of a trap gun, which had not been previously addressed in the state.

Under common law in England, a trespasser who knew about spring guns in a wood could not sue for injuries caused by accidentally triggering the gun. However, this was later changed by a statute that made it a crime to set spring guns with the intent to cause injury, except for those set in a dwelling house between sunset and sunrise for protection. In the US, a person can be held criminally or civilly liable for injuries caused by a deadly mechanical device on their property, except in cases where the intrusion is such that the person would be justified in using force to protect their property. However, the court declines to adopt this exception to liability for death or injuries caused by such devices in criminal cases. The defendant cannot use this exception as a defense in this case, and was not justified in shooting the victim under Penal Code section 197. The lower court's decision was affirmed.

Penal Code section 197 allows for justifiable homicide to prevent a felony, but the burglary must reasonably create a fear of great bodily harm for the use of deadly force to be justified. The defendant cannot claim justification for shooting Stephen to prevent burglary under Penal Code section 197, subdivisions 1 or 2. The use of a deadly mechanical device to prevent burglary of an unoccupied dwelling house may not be privileged. The defendant cannot claim justification for shooting someone under Penal Code section 197, subdivision 4, as their intent was to prevent a burglary and protect their property, not apprehend a felon. The defendant cannot argue that they were justified in using deadly force under Penal Code sections 692 and 693 because the circumstances do not apply. The preservation of human life and limb is more important than the protection of property.

Justice McKee's opinion in Dinan v. Fitz Gibbon is not a controlling precedent. Deadly force can be used to protect a dwelling house in certain circumstances, but not in this case. The defendant's claim of justification is not valid, and any alleged errors in instructions regarding this defense did not prejudice the defendant. The defendant's argument of being committed without probable cause cannot be decided as the transcript was not part of the record on appeal, and the defendant did not make a motion based on this ground. The judgment is affirmed.

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Facts & Holding

Facts:The defendant lived above his garage and sometimes slept in...

Holding:The defendant was not justified in using deadly force, because...

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People v. Ceballos

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