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Can You Use Force to Protect Your Home in Pennsylvania?

February 06, 2020

By van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim

Just after midnight on Christmas Eve, a man was awoken by strange noises. With gun in hand, the man went to investigate and saw an unknown man in his driveway, allegedly trying to break into his home. The homeowner fired a warning shot into the air after the intruder lunged at him. That not being enough, the intruder lunged at the homeowner again. This time, the homeowner shot the intruder with the pistol. The shot was not lethal and the man was taken to the hospital. He now faces several charges.

The story raises a question criminal defense lawyers hear quite often. Are you allowed to use force to protect yourself or your home in Pennsylvania? The answer lies in both the Castle Doctrine and the state’s Stand Your Ground law.

The Castle Doctrine

The Castle Doctrine gets its name from a legislative decision made in Britain many decades ago. The concept is that a person’s home is their castle, and that they have a right to protect it. This holds true even if a person must use force, as in the recent story. Pennsylvania has adopted the Castle Doctrine, allowing anyone to protect themselves, their family, or their home if there is a clear and present threat of danger.

Stand Your Ground

Pennsylvania’s Stand Your Ground law is similar to that of the Castle Doctrine. The only exception is that a person does not have to be on their own property to use it. Under Title 18, Section 505, a person is allowed to use force when protecting themselves or their family. However, this law also has some limitations. The use of force used in self-defense is only justifiable under the law if the person using that force:

  • Has a right to be in the location where force is used
  • Has not provoked the attacker in any way
  • Is not involved in any criminal activity, or uses an illegal firearm when using force
  • Is not using force to resist arrest or interfere with a law enforcement officer

Under the Stand Your Ground law, the assailant must also use or display a firearm or other weapon capable of deadly force. The only exception to this is when an assailant attempts to burglarize a home. In this instance, the person threatened or their family need not be attacked for the owner to use deadly force.

Our Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Lawyers Know You Have Rights

No one ever wants to have to use force on another person to defend their home. However, when the need arises, our Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers know you have rights, and it is important that you do, too. At van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim, we will stand up for those rights and prove to the prosecution and the courts that you were right in defending yourself, and your family. If you are facing charges after using self-defense, call us at (215) 486-0123. We will build you a solid defense that will give you the best chance of beating the charges.



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