Bakersfield Home Invasion Case: Homeowner Liability, Self-Defense, And The ‘Castle Doctrine’

May 31, 2023 | Article by Chain | Cohn | Clark staff | News & Media , Tips & Information

Bakersfield Home Invasion Case: Homeowner Liability, Self-Defense, And The ‘Castle Doctrine’

If someone broke into your home while you and your family were inside, could you legally defend yourself?

That’s what happened at a northeast Bakersfield home when a man was attacked with a hatchet and defended himself, killing the intruder. Bakersfield Police said the intruder was living at a sober house nearby and trespassed into the man’s home through an open garage door. Shortly after, the intruder attacked the homeowner with a hatchet, and the homeowner retaliated with a knife, killing the intruder.

Was this defense legal? Could the homeowner be found liable for injuries or death of an intruder?

“Our home is the most sacred place that most of us have,” Chain | Cohn | Clark attorney Chris Hagan told media during a news interview. “As a homeowner, you have a right to defend yourself in your home when somebody enters it, and they are not invited.”

The homeowner suffered moderate injuries and was not arrested. The Kern County Coroner’s Office identified a man killed while intruding at the house on Glenridge Street near Pla Vada Drive as Christian Flores, 20, of Bakersfield.

The right to self-defense in California is primarily governed by several statutes and legal principles, which include:

  1. Penal Code Section 198.5: This section provides protection to individuals who use force, including deadly force, in self-defense or defense of others during the commission of a forcible and unlawful entry into their occupied dwelling. It states that a person is presumed to have had a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily injury when using force intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm against an intruder who unlawfully and forcibly enters their residence.
  2. Penal Code Section 197: This section allows individuals to use reasonable force to defend themselves or others from imminent harm. It states that a person is justified in using force if they reasonably believe it is necessary to prevent imminent injury to themselves or others.

The self-defense law is commonly known as the Castle Doctrine, which allows individuals to use reasonable force, including deadly force, to protect themselves and others from intruders who unlawfully enter their home. However, the use of force must be proportionate to the threat faced, and the homeowner must reasonably believe that such force is necessary to prevent imminent harm or death.

Attorney Chris Hagan explains how the doctrine works:

“Suppose you are a homeowner in California, and someone unlawfully and forcibly enters your home in the middle of the night. You are awoken by the noise and fear for your safety and the safety of your family. In this situation, California’s self-defense laws would generally allow you to use reasonable force, including deadly force if necessary, to defend yourself and your family. Under the Castle Doctrine principles, you may have the right to assume that the intruder intends to commit a violent crime, given their unlawful entry into your dwelling. This assumption can justify your use of force to protect yourself, as long as you have a reasonable belief that such force is necessary to prevent imminent harm or death.”

However, it’s important to note that the specific circumstances of each case can influence the application of the law. Factors such as the level of threat posed by the intruder, the availability of alternative means to protect oneself, and any pre-existing duty to retreat can all affect the interpretation of the Castle Doctrine or self-defense laws.

Hagan also explains a situation where the homeowner would not be protected:

“Now let’s say you have a disagreement with a neighbor over a property boundary issue. One day, tensions escalate, and your neighbor enters your property without permission and begins yelling at you. In response, you retrieve a firearm and threaten to use it against your neighbor, even though they are not physically threatening you. In this situation, the Castle Doctrine may not protect you as the homeowner. In this example, while your neighbor entered your property without permission, they did not unlawfully and forcibly enter your dwelling, such as breaking into your house. Moreover, if you respond to a non-violent dispute by brandishing a firearm and threatening your neighbor, your actions may be considered disproportionate and potentially illegal. The use of force, including deadly force, is generally justified only when there is a reasonable belief of imminent harm or danger. However, in this scenario, your neighbor’s actions do not appear to pose an immediate threat that would justify the use of force.”

As for liability, in California the homeowner’s liability generally depends on the circumstances surrounding the incident. California follows the principle of “premises liability,” which means that property owners have a legal duty to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition for visitors or guests.


If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, or injured on the job no matter whose fault it is, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Clark by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form, text, or chat with us at