Pennsylvania’s laws define assault as inflicting or attempting to inflict bodily harm on another person. Though that seems fairly straightforward, what happens if you have purposely inflicted harm on somebody else while defending yourself?

Though the state of Pennsylvania once had a law known as the Duty to Retreat, which meant that you had to take “reasonable steps” to avoid conflict instead of using force. Those laws were eliminated when it became clear that it put the victim in an untenable situation and unable to defend themselves. Now an individual can use self-defense as justification for inflicting bodily harm, but in using that justification you are pleading guilty to inflicting harm. It then becomes the state’s responsibility to prove that you were not, in fact, fearful but instead caused harm as the aggressor.

This change eliminates the fear of prosecution for those being attacked, but it does not automatically give you the right to use deadly force. Pennsylvania’s laws require that the force you use to defend yourself needs to be equal to what you are protecting yourself against. A bar fight using fists should not be defended against with a knife or a gun, and an individual who has used what later turns out to be a disproportionate force to defend themselves against an attack because they believed their aggressor was armed will need to establish their sense of what was happening in that moment in order to justify their actions.

In addition to the self-defense law, the state of Pennsylvania also has a law that specifically addresses the use of deadly force involving aggression against you in your home, work or occupied vehicle. Known as the Castle Doctrine, these laws make three different situational uses of deadly force legal. They are:

  • When someone is unlawfully entering your home, work or occupied vehicle
  • When someone already has unlawfully entered your home, work or occupied vehicle
  • When someone tries to unlawfully remove you from your home, work or occupied vehicle

In any of these situations, Pennsylvania law places the burden on the prosecution to prove that your use of deadly force was unreasonable.

If you’ve been accused of assault for actions you took in self-defense, you need an experienced defense attorney’s guidance and assistance. Contact us today to set up a time to discuss your situation.

 

 

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