As a criminal defense attorney in Philadelphia, PA, I understand that nothing is more important than the safety of your home and family. When the safety of yourself, your family, or your home is compromised by an aggressive party or intruder, you naturally want to do anything possible to prevent that breach of safety. In this article, I’ll discuss the “Castle Doctrine” and statutes in Pennsylvania that allow you to use force to protect yourself and others.
The Castle Doctrine in Pennsylvania
Luckily, many states in the U.S., Pennsylvania included, have “Stand Your Ground” laws that provide rights for those defending themselves in such situations. These laws are often referred to as a “Castle Doctrine” which is a phrase taken from English parliament member and writer Sir Edward Coke. Sir Coke once said, “A man’s house is his castle and fortress, and (his) home is his safest refuge.” The Castle Doctrine allows for the defense of your home in the event of intrusion and attempts to eliminate the repercussions should the homeowner need to use deadly force to protect themselves, their family, or their possessions.
Stand Your Ground – The Use of Force in Self-Protection in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, there is a statute that allows you, under certain circumstances, to use force to protect yourself and your family. Title 18 Section 505 specifically describes the laws for “Use of force in self-protection.” It states: “The use of force upon or toward another person is justifiable when the “actor” (party taking action against an intruder or assailant) believes that such force is immediately necessary for the purpose of protecting himself…” Basically, if someone feels that they are in immediate danger due to the unlawful actions taken by another party, that person is entitled to defend him or herself under Pennsylvania law.
Of course, there are limitations to this law and the actor must be able to justify the use of force against the aggressor. Section 505 B states that the use of deadly force is considered justifiable if the actor believes themselves or their loved ones to be in danger of “death, serious injury, kidnapping, or sexual intercourse compelled by force or threat.” Should this be the case, the use of force in self-protection would be deemed proper and justifiable if the following conditions are also met:
- The actor is allowed to or has the right to be in the location where they are attacked.
- The person that the deadly force is used against uses or displays a firearm or any weapon apparently capable of lethal use.
- The actor has not provoked the assailant in any way.
- The actor is not in possession of an illegal firearm or involved in any illegal activity.
- The actor is not using deadly force to resist arrest or hinder an officer of the peace.
In this instance, the actor has no obligation to retreat and may “stand their ground” and use deadly force against their assailant. Additionally, should the actor believe that someone has illegally entered their home with ill intent, an attack on the homeowner or their family is not necessary to justify the use of deadly force. To clarify, though most of the applications of this law deal with the invasion of a dwelling, the use of deadly force against an attacker may be justified not only in your own home but anywhere that you have a right to be. Of course, no two circumstances are exactly the same, and there are exceptions to the laws discussed above. If you are curious to learn more about Pennsylvania’s Stand Your Ground laws, I would suggest reading the laws themselves at http://legis.state.pa.us
We sincerely hope that you never need to defend yourself or your home from an attacker, but should the situation arise, it is critically important to know your rights. Should you need legal representation for this or any type of criminal matter, give Fishman Firm a call to discuss your rights and options for moving forward today.