Firm Logo
Call for a Free Consultation215-486-0123

Is Self-Defense A Defense To Murder?

December 01, 2021

By Van Der Veen, Hartshorn, and Levin

A man was recently charged with murder after an altercation outside of sports bar in which he shot a man. The prosecution argued that the shooting was gang-related, but the defense argued that the man was acting in self-defense.

The story is an interesting one. While self-defense is often used in assault and battery cases, can it be used for a crime as serious as murder? The answer is yes, but it is not an easy defense to use.

The Degrees of Murder Under Pennsylvania Law

Under Pennsylvania law, murder is classified as criminal homicide and is defined as knowingly, intentionally, negligently, or recklessly causing the death of another person. The law also recognizes three different degrees of murder, which are as follows:

  • First-degree murder: When someone intentionally causes the death of another person, it is first-degree murder.
  • Second-degree murder: Causing the death of another person while committing a felony, either as a principal or an accomplice, is considered second-degree murder.
  • Third-degree murder: Any murder that cannot be classified as first-degree or second-degree is considered third-degree murder.

To prove any degree of murder, the prosecution must show that someone killed another person and that they did so either intentionally or negligently.

The Use of Deadly Force

As a general rule, the law in Pennsylvania permits the use of force when a person is protecting themselves and believes the use of force is necessary to do so. Deadly force, on the other hand, can only be used if a person is protecting themselves in very specific situations. These include when a person is protecting themselves against death, serious bodily injury, or sexual intercourse compelled by threat or force.

A person cannot use any type of force against another person and claim self-defense if they provoked the threatening or violent action. This is just one element that makes arguing self-defense difficult. A person must also have a reasonable belief that another person is going to use deadly force against them. For example, if someone was pointing a loaded gun at you and threatening to shoot, you likely have a reasonable belief that your life was in imminent danger. On the other hand, if someone was unarmed and simply threatening to fight you, there likely would be no reason to believe your life was in danger.

To use self-defense in your case, it is critical that you first speak to a criminal defense lawyer that can carefully review the facts of your case, and explain the law surrounding self-defense in the state.

Call Our Criminal Defense Lawyer in Allentown Today

Murder is a very serious crime and if convicted, you will face life in prison, or maybe even the death penalty. At van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim, our Allentown criminal defense lawyer will build a strong defense to give you the best chance of beating the charges or getting your charges reduced. Call us today at (215) 486-0123 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.



Criminal Defense
Firm Logo
Allentown Office609 Hamiltion St,Suite 7Allentown, PA 18101Map & Directions
Philadelphia Office1219 Spruce StPhiladelphia, PA 19107Map & Directions
Montgomery County Office411 Cherry St.Norristown, PA 19401Map & Directions
Follow Us
Make A Payment