Recently, there has been quite a lot of talk in the news about gun rights. With all the talk about what the law might be someday, I thought it would be a good idea to address what the law of Pennsylvania actually is, right now, concerning the right to defend oneself. Below is a brief synopsis of Pennsylvania’s “Castle Doctrine” laws. This phrase borrows its name from the well-known saying that your “home is your castle.” When not at home, other laws have been described as the “stand your ground” laws. Pennsylvania has laws for each of these.
First, do you have a right to defend yourself, no matter where you are? In Pennsylvania,
…the answer is “Yes.” Based on a law that went into effect at the end of June 2011, every Pennsylvanian has the right to use force against another person to protect themself against the use of unlawful force by another and if such action is immediately necessary to provide that protection.
Second, as a Pennsylvanian, you may use “deadly force” to protect yourself against death, serious bodily injury, kidnapping, or sexual intercourse by force or threat. Unless you provoked the other person to threaten you (seldom the case) you do not have to retreat from the other person, and can use deadly force in your own home or place of work. If at work, you only have to retreat from the use of deadly force if the other person is a co-worker, and only if it is completely safe to do so.
Of course, if you are not at home or at work, say, at the store or in town, then you must retreat if you can do so with complete safety, but if not, then you may use deadly force against another to protect yourself against the type of harms listed above. Again, when you have a duty to retreat, such as when you are out in public, you only have to do so if you can retreat with complete safety. If not, you may stand your ground and defend yourself even to the point of using deadly force to stop your own death, serious bodily injury, kidnapping, or rape by force or threat.
While there are some additional provisions, including that you cannot use deadly force against police officers performing their lawful duties, or while you are committing a crime, etc., those exceptions will not affect most law-abiding citizens who are only seeking to protect themselves from the types of harm, listed above.
If you have any questions about the use of force, including deadly force in Pennsylvania, or if you have been charged with criminal law violations in Pennsylvania, please contact one of our criminal law attorneys at Menges & McLaughlin, P.C. today.