Imperfect self-defense is another way to reduce a murder charge to the lesser-included offense of voluntary manslaughter. Imperfect self-defense means that a person honestly, but unreasonably, believed they (or someone close to them) were in danger of great bodily injury or death, and killed another person because of that fear.
In contrast, perfect self-defense, which is a complete defense to murder, is where a person honestly and reasonably believes they are in imminent danger of death or great bodily injury. Every case is different, and depending on your situation you may have a perfect self-defense or imperfect self-defense. The jury instruction for imperfect self-defense, CALCRIM 571 reads,
As an example, if someone threatens a person with a red toy gun, and that person unreasonably, but genuinely, believes it was a real gun and kills the person holding the gun because of that belief, the person would be guilty not of first-degree murder, only voluntary manslaughter. This can apply to all types of situations, including fights, domestic violence, and gang violence. Imperfect self-defense happens when someone believes something is a serious threat, but other people would not have seen it that way.
At the Castillo Law Office, we investigate and use our knowledge of the law to present the best case for you. If perfect self-defense can apply to you, we will work hard to prove your innocence. If the better approach is to reduce a first-degree murder charge to a voluntary manslaughter, then we will develop an imperfect self-defense for you. Our Oakland criminal defense attorney knows the law and uses it to your advantage.