Updated: Jul 11, 2022
What is "Stand Your Ground" in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania is one of 38 states that have a “stand your ground” law providing that you have no duty to retreat from anywhere you have a legal right to be in a qualifying threatening situation. This relates to the commonly known “Castle Doctrine,” which establishes your right to protect yourself within your own home without first having to try and escape. The law was expanded in 2011 to give you this same right outside of your home.
What Does Stand Your Ground Law Allow
Provided that you are not engaged in criminal activity and you are not in possession of an illegal firearm, the Stand Your Ground law authorizes the use of deadly force to protect yourself from threats of force or bodily injury without being required to first try to escape.
In Pennsylvania, any person “has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his ground and use force, including deadly force if . . . (he) believes it is immediately necessary to do so to protect himself against death, serious bodily injury, kidnapping, or sexual intercourse by force or threat.” See 18 Pa.C.S. § 505(b)(2.3) for the entire statute. The law further provides that in order to be allowed to “stand your ground” instead of retreating, the attacker against whom you are going to use deadly force must have a firearm or other lethal weapon that is visible at the time when you use deadly force.
You Are Not Required to Give a Warning First
In Pennsylvania, you are not legally required to perform the following acts before using deadly force in a “Stand Your Ground ” situation:
Issue a verbal warning
Shoot one or more warning shots
Warn the attacker that you have a firearm on you
Shoot to injure the attacker to deter violence
Give the attacker an opportunity to retreat
Call 911 before or after using deadly force
What Isn’t Permitted
Pennsylvania’s Stand Your Ground Law is not absolute. Unless the threatening party is an intruder in your home or vehicle, a simple threat of violence or feeling of danger is not enough to justify force. There must be a reasonable expectation of immediate serious danger.
The Stand Your Ground law does not apply to situations where you are trying to protect anyone other than you from the threat of serious bodily injury. It cannot be used as a defense in a situation where you’re protecting your spouse, children, or other loved ones.
Also, protecting yourself must be “immediately necessary.” For example, if the attacker tries to flee, the use of force is no longer justified. You also cannot chase someone down after they’ve threatened you and claim protection. Finally, if you are involved in a crime at the time, the stand your ground law does not apply.
Other situations where the use of force is not justified include:
Resisting arrest by a police officer;
Resisting force used by the occupier of property or by another person who is defending their property;
When you provoke the actions being taken against you;
And when you are unlawfully entering another’s property.
You Still Should Retain an Attorney
If you do act to defend yourself, the police will investigate the shooting or other actions you have taken to ensure that your behavior was justified. You may wish to be represented by a Pennsylvania Stand Your Ground criminal defense lawyer during this investigation. In some cases, people who acted in their own defense, or in defense of others, will actually end up facing criminal charges. If you are charged, you need a lawyer to defend yourself so you can try to avoid conviction.