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Can You Use Self-Defense In Pennsylvania?

June 28, 2021

By van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim

Recently, a man was found not guilty of criminal homicide. The man was involved in a marijuana deal that ended in gunfire and one person dead. The man faced charges of criminal homicide and several counts of attempted criminal homicide. During trial, his lawyer argued that the prosecution did not fully prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. He also stated that the man was using self-defense.

It is clear after this case that self-defense is a legitimate defense in Pennsylvania. Still, it is important to know what the law says, and how much force can be used in order for it to be a valid defense.

When Can You Use Force in Pennsylvania?

Individuals in Pennsylvania have the right to use self-defense when they believe it is necessary to protect themselves against the use of unlawful force of another person. A person must also be in fear of bodily injury or death when using force as self-defense. When a situation justifies it, individuals can even use a weapon or even deadly force when they are trying to defend themselves. Pennsylvania follows a “stand your ground law,” which means you have no duty to try and escape or retreat before using force.

After defending yourself, it is important to work with a Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyer. The police will conduct a full investigation to determine what happened and if you were really defending yourself. If they find you were not, they may lay criminal charges and those charges are likely to be very serious. A criminal defense lawyer will give you the best chance of avoiding charges, and start building you a strong case, if necessary.

Exceptions to the Use of Force

Although Pennsylvania law does allow a person to use force against someone else when they believe they are in danger, there are some exceptions to the law. Under the statute, force cannot be used as a defense when a person first provoked someone into acting against them. As another exception, a person may hit someone else. The person who was hit may then use force to defend themselves, but the person who was hit cannot continue to use force and claim self-defense.

The statute also outlines other situations in which force cannot be used. These include when a person is:

  • Resisting arrest
  • Resisting arrest by the owner or occupier of a property that is defending their premises
  • Illegally entering another person’s property

If you do use force to defend yourself, you must prove that you acted legally so you can avoid criminal charges, or a conviction.

Call Our Criminal Defense Lawyers in Allentown First

If you have used force in self-defense, do not speak with police or the prosecution until you have contacted our Allentown criminal defense lawyers. At van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim, we know how to prove you acted in self-defense so you have the best chance of beating the charges. Call us today at (215) 486-0123 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.



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