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Understanding Pennsylvania’s self-defense laws

On Behalf of | Nov 18, 2019 | Criminal Defense

Many in State College may choose to view a claim of self-defense in response to criminal accusations with a certain degree of skepticism. This likely comes from the assumption that if someone does indeed engage in a violent act (or even a fatal act) that there must have been some degree of criminal intent behind it. Yet the law does, in fact, recognize that there are scenarios where the use of force is justified.

These details can be found in Section 505, Title 18 of Pennsylvania’s Consolidated Statutes. Here, it states that a person is indeed permitted to respond with force if they believe it to be the only way to protect themselves from unlawful force being used against them. “Unlawful force” is meant to be any action that may result in:

  • Death
  • Serious bodily injury
  • Kidnapping
  • Sexual intercourse compelled by force or threat

A fear of such action is considered to be justified if the person against whom force is used is attempting to unlawfully and forcefully enter a dwelling, residence or vehicle, or is attempting to remove one from such a location against their will. The use of force may also be justified if the person exerting it believes that such an unlawful entry is occurring or has already occurred.

In addition, the law states that one who is in a place where they are legally entitled to be (and is not illegally carrying a firearm and is not committing a crime) has no duty to retreat from a situation where they feel threatened by a person who is brandishing a fireman or other type of lethal weapon. Deadly force may even be justified in certain scenarios; indeed, information shared by the Violence Policy Center shows that 274 justifiable homicides were reported in the U.S. in 2016.