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What are Pennsylvania’s self-defense laws?

On Behalf of | Jun 10, 2020 | blog

Successfully arguing a claim of self-defense can often be challenging due to the complexities of the laws regarding this issue. On the one hand, it is not expected that you simply allow yourself (or another) to become the victim of a crime in the interest of not initiating conflict, yet that right is one that you need to employ judiciously. 

In the moment you need to act, there may not be any grey area to confuse your judgment: you either act or risk becoming a victim. Fortunately, local self-defense laws also clearly spell out the situations in which they apply. 

The Castle Doctrine vs. “Stand Your Ground” 

Most self-defense statutes follow one of two philosophies: “Stand Your Ground” or the Castle Doctrine. The “Stand Your Ground” principle states that in any situation where you feel threatened, you should be able to respond with force to defend yourself. The Castle Doctrine is much the same, only it essentially limits those situations where you might reasonably feel threatened to encounters occurring in familiar locations. 

A review of Pennsylvania’s state law shows that the state subscribes to the latter principle. Indeed, Section 505 of the Pennsylvania Code says that the officials presume how have a reasonable fear of suffering death or serious injury if one is attempting to unlawfully enter your home or vehicle (or to forcefully remove you or another from one of those locations). 

Limitations to self-defense laws 

There are, however, certain limitations to Pennsylvania’s application of the Castle Doctrine. You cannot act forcefully against another who had a legal right to be in the location in which they attempt to gain entry, and you cannot act against a peace officer attempting to enter any of the aforementioned locations in the course of completing their appointed duties.