Most people understand that they have a basic right to defend themselves, their propert and their family when faced with danger. Your personal definition and the legal definition of self-defense, however, can vary greatly depending on the laws where you live.
All states have laws that establish self-defense as a justification for using force—even deadly force. These laws protect someone from being prosecuted for what would normally be considered a crime if they find themselves in a situation where they are under threat of death or significant harm. Most of these laws are very similar, but there are slight differences that can significantly impact your ability to legally claim that you committed a violent act in self-defense.
What Constitutes Self-Defense In Pennsylvania
Some states have what are commonly called “stand your ground laws”. The basic concept of these laws is that you can defend yourself against danger without first trying to retreat from that danger. You can stand your ground and fight back.
Pennsylvania’s version of the stand your ground law is known as the “castle doctrine”. Pennsylvania law is referred to as the justification defense. The justification defense allows a person to protect themselves, their family and friends and their property. The castle doctrine comes from an old English common law that says a home is his or her castle and they have a right to defend.
In many cases, in order to claim self-defense in Pennsylvania, you have to demonstrate that you first tried to retreat from danger as best you could before you resorted to using force. In reality a self defense (or justification defense) requires early preparation. You need a layer who knows how the defense applies and what evidence is needed to prove justification. .
The main points of what constitutes a justifiable use of force in self-defense are detailed in Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, Title 18, § 505, § 506, and § 507. These three sections of the statutes describe what is a justifiable use of force when defending yourself, defending another person, or defending your property.
When protecting yourself:
- You can use deadly force when you have a reasonable belief that the force is necessary in order to protect yourself against the unlawful use of force including death, serious bodily injury, kidnapping, or nonconsensual sexual intercourse.
- You do not have a duty to retreat from your home, car, or place of work unless you were the initial aggressor.
When protecting someone else, deadly force is considered justified:
- If you were in the same situation as the person that you are trying to protect, you could legally use the same force that you will use to protect them.
- You reasonably believe that the person you are trying to protect would be justified in using such force.
- You reasonably believe that your help is necessary to protect the other person.
When protecting your property, deadly force is justifiable under the law if:
- You are trying to prevent or stop an unlawful entry or another trespass on a property that you own or are in legal possession of.
- You are trying to prevent or stop the unlawful carrying away of tangible movable property from land or property that you own or are in legal possession of.
Speak With A Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you are being charged with a crime for an act that you committed in self-defense, you should contact a competent and experienced criminal defense attorney right away. You need to start collecting evidence and witnesses right away. Only an experienced criminal defense lawyer will be able to make sure that all your rights are protected and that you are not punished for simply defending yourself, your loved ones, or your property.
If you are facing charges in Pennsylvania for an act of self-defense, the Law Offices of Feeney & Gurwitz can help. Our lawyers are trial experienced and they have defended people in court using justification as a defense. Your initial consultation is free and confidential. We’ll be happy to go over the details of your case and discuss how we can help you. Call (610) 378-7000 to schedule your free consultation.