Individuals have the right to defend themselves against the actions of others. Commonwealth law does allow for self-defense. However, self-defense laws in Pennsylvania can become confusing, and it is important to know what a person can and cannot do to ensure the safety of their person. Here, we want to examine Pennsylvania’s self-defense laws.
What Are the Pennsylvania Self-Defense Laws?
When we look directly at the statutes related to self-defense in Pennsylvania (§ 505. Use of force in self-protection), we can see that self-defense is defined as the “Use of force justifiable for protection of the person. The use of force upon or toward another person is justifiable when the actor believes that such force is immediately necessary for the purpose of protecting himself against the use of unlawful force by such other person on the present occasion.”
When purely examining this language, it seems like self-defense is common sense. Individuals can take steps to protect themselves if they believe that they are in immediate danger of suffering harm as a result of the actions of another individual.
There are various situations where individuals could justifiably use force when defending themselves against another. Four possible threat scenarios that could justify the use of force under Pennsylvania’s salt defense laws include a person protecting themselves from:
- Serious bodily injury
It needs to be stated that individuals can typically not claim self-defense in situations where they had a chance to avoid a possible threat by retreating from the individual wishing to do them harm. However, this need to retreat does not apply in situations where individuals are covered by Pennsylvania’s “Stand Your Ground” situations.
The use of force that an individual uses must be comparable to the use of force they have been threatened with. For example, if a person attacks you with their fists, you will typically not be permitted to counter their attack with a deadly weapon such as a knife or a gun. However, if someone attacks you with a knife, a deadly force response would be acceptable because you are facing deadly force.
There are certain exceptions written into law when the use of force is not justifiable under self-defense laws. Just as important as it is to let you know what the self-defense law says, we have to let you know when this law does not apply. Some of the main situations where the use of force is not justifiable include the following:
- To resist an arrest that is being made by a police officer, even if it is believed the arrest is unlawful
- To resist force used by the occupier or possessor of a property or another person acting on their behalf, when the individual knows that the person using force has a right to do so to protect their property
- To resist a public officer acting within the capacity of their official duties
If you have found yourself in a situation where you have had to act in self-defense, you need to speak to an attorney as soon as possible. Even those who have acted in self-defense could still face charges from law enforcement officials and prosecutors. You need an attorney who has extensive experience handling these claims by your side. An experienced criminal defense attorney will examine the facts of the case, formulate a defense on your behalf, and handle all communication with other parties involved.