It should not be unreasonable to expect understanding when you encounter a situation where you feel forced to defend yourself (or those you love). Yet even with this general understanding, many people in Pennsylvania view claims of self-defense with a great deal of skepticism.
This skepticism often concerns many of those who come to us here at The Law Offices of Patrick F. Lauer, Jr. LLC facing criminal charges after acting in self-defense. If you find yourself in the same situation, it is important for you to know the state’s stance on the justifiable use of force.
“The Castle Doctrine”
Many of the country’s self-defense laws find their roots in a legal principle known as “Stand Your Ground.” This essentially absolves you of the duty to retreat from any situation where you believe a threat to your personal safety exists. However, Pennsylvania’s self-defense statute follows a similar (yet more limited) philosophy referred to as “the Castle Doctrine.” This allows you to use force to defend yourself and your loved ones, but only from unlawful intrusions into places where you are legally entitled to be. Indeed, Section 505 of the state’s Crimes and Offenses Code states that the court assumes a reasonable fear of the potential for death or serious injury when one unlawfully attempts to enter (or gains entry to): any of the following locations:
- Your residence
- Your vehicle
- Your temporary dwelling (e.g., a hotel room, an acquaintance’s home)
Exceptions to Pennsylvania’s self-defense laws
There are, however, certain exceptions to the state’s self-defense statute. For example, you cannot react with force against one entering into your dwelling who also has a right to be there, nor can you act against a peace officer attempting to execute their lawful duties.
You can find more information on defending yourself from criminal accusations throughout our site.