What are the Rules on Self Defense in Pennsylvania?
July 22, 2022
Anyone facing a criminal charge knows how scary it can be—but this is especially true if you feel your arrest was unwarranted and that you were only acting out of self-defense. Many people across the country own guns and a recent 2021 national firearms survey found that 31.1% of these owners have used their gun in self-defense. However, the rules about using a self-defense plea can be complex. It’s important to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney to learn more about your options and pursue strong protection of your rights.
If you’re in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area and would like to speak with someone about your criminal charges, call me at The Law Offices of John Della Rocca to schedule a consultation. I’m able to serve clients in the surrounding area including Delaware County, Montgomery County, Bucks County, Chester County, and throughout New Jersey.
What Is Self-Defense?
When you plead self-defense, you’re asserting that you had to use force to protect yourself or someone else from imminent harm or danger. Although self-defense laws will vary depending on where you live, in all states, people have the right to defend themselves, their families, and their property in some capacity. However, in practice, proving you used self-defense in a justifiable way can be complicated.
Self-defense can be used for all kinds of charges such as assault, abuse, domestic violence, and even murder. And if you’ve been charged with one of these crimes but feel your actions were a justified use of self-defense, the best thing you can do for yourself is contact an experienced attorney who can help investigate your case and defend your rights.
When Can It Be Used As A Legal Defense?
It’s important to know the different circumstances when self-defense can be used as a legal defense. In most cases, this means you’re in imminent danger and the perpetrator was the initial aggressor and not you. In all cases, you must show that your use of force was proportional to the expected threat. You must also show that you had a reasonable belief that a threat existed against you. For example, if there is someone passed out in your backyard, they are not an immediate threat to you at the moment, even though they have trespassed on your property. You most likely would not be justified in using deadly force.
Duty To Retreat In Pennsylvania
Central to Pennsylvania’s self-defense laws is the concept of “duty to retreat.” In this state, as well as 38 others, you have no duty to retreat if you’re somewhere legally—but this doesn’t go as far as some other “stand your ground” laws do. Essentially, if you’re in public and someone is trying to harm you or someone else with a deadly weapon, you do not have a duty to retreat, but in most other cases you would have to retreat.
Another related self-defense concept is called the castle doctrine. This law states that if you are in your own home or workplace and someone has entered without your permission, then you have the right to use force against them without first retreating or trying to escape, even if the option is available to you. However, there are limits to this as well. In general, you will still be held to the “proportional response” standard in your use of force, but this tends to be easier to prove in court than if you were in a public place.
Get Experienced Legal Guidance
I opened The Law Offices of John Della Rocca over two decades ago because I wanted to make a difference in my community and make sure everybody gets the help they need when they’re facing a criminal charge. If you’re in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area, and want to learn more about the state’s self-defense laws, set up a consultation today to get started.