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People v. Ceballos

Scott Caron

ProfessorScott Caron

CaseCast "What you need to know"

CaseCast –  "What you need to know"

People v. Ceballos

Citation. 12 Cal. 3d 470, 526 P.2d 241,116 Cal. Rptr. 233, 1974 Cal. 240.
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Brief Fact Summary.

The Defendant, Don Ceballos (Defendant), was convicted by a jury of assault with a deadly weapon, when the victim, who was trying to break into the Defendant’s premises, was hit by a trap gun mounted in the defendant’s garage.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

A person is not justified in using deadly force to protect his property from burglary.


The Defendant lived alone in a home. After some tools had been stolen from his home, the Defendant mounted a .22 caliber pistol in his garage. The pistol was aimed at the center of the garage door and was designed to discharge if the door was opened several inches. On the day in question, two boys, age 15 and 16, attempted to break into the Defendant’s home. Upon opening the garage door, one of the boys was shot in the face by the gun.


Is a person entitled to use deadly force to prevent a burglary that did not threaten death or serious bodily harm?


No. Mechanical devices are without mercy or discretion. Therefore, while a person who is present may use deadly force under certain circumstances, a deadly mechanical device is unacceptable, especially where, as here, the burglars were unarmed.


Mechanical devices may never be used for the protection of property.

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