Being the victim of someone else’s violent crime can be a traumatic and life-altering experience. It is not uncommon for the fight-or-flight response to kick in when under attack. If you are able, you should always try to flee to safety. Unfortunately, not everyone can safely escape their attackers and they may have no choice but to fight back. Sometimes, victims fight back a little too well, and their attackers end up severely injured or even killed as a result. While causing the death of another is a terrible crime, the law carves out exceptions for self-defense.
Self-defense may justify your crime if you truly believed that force was immediately necessary to protect yourself from the unlawful force of another. However, justifiable self-defense is more than simply fighting back. Your belief that force is necessary for protection must be reasonable and in good faith. Also, your use of force must be proportionate to the force used against you. There may also be circumstances where the use of force as self-defense is not justifiable.
If you are charged with a crime but believe your actions were justified by self-defense, you should speak with a lawyer immediately. Our Philadelphia criminal self-defense lawyers can help you fight your charges and hopefully clear your name. Set up a free consultation with our team at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long by calling (215) 302-0171.
How Self-Defense Works in Philadelphia
The laws regarding the use of self-defense as a justification for a crime can be found under § 505 of Title 18 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes. The law states that the use of force may be justified if it is necessary for your protection. The law goes on to explain that you must believe that the use of force is immediately necessary and that you must be protecting yourself against force used by someone else.
However, there are limitations on how far self-defense can go. First, self-defense is only a valid justification if you honestly believed your actions were necessary. For example, if someone charges at you with a knife, you might genuinely believe force is necessary to protect yourself. However, if someone threw a plastic butter knife at you, you would not reasonably believe you need to protect yourself using force. For your actions to be justifiable as self-defense, you must be in fear of serious bodily injury, death, kidnapping, or forced sexual intercourse.
There are also certain circumstances in which the use of force will not be justified as self-defense. For example, some laws require that you flee instead of fight back if you can safely do so. This would obviously not apply in circumstances where you are backed into a corner with nowhere to run. It also may not apply in your own home if someone breaks in. You may also not use self-defense when confronted by a public officer acting within the scope of their duties.
Justifiable self-defense may help you escape criminal culpability under certain conditions. However, it is not a free pass to use force against people for slight offenses or when you know that you are in little to no danger. Call our Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers for more information about asserting self-defense as a justification for your actions.
Justifying a Crime Through Defense of Others
The concept of self-defense not only includes defending yourself but may also include defending other people. According to § 506 of Title 18 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, you may use force to protect another person from harm if you would also be permitted to use the same force in your own defense if you were in the third party’s position. Basically, the third party would be justified in using self-defense if you did not come along. However, you must have good faith and honest belief that your actions are necessary to save this third party from harm.
The limitations on the use of force to defend others are similar to those for self-defense. Your use of force must be proportional to the force used against the victim, meaning you cannot use deadly force to combat non-deadly force. You may also be subject to restrictions that require you to flee if you can. Our Philadelphia criminal self-defense lawyer can review your case and assert the best defense possible.
Using Force to Protect Property in Philadelphia
The principles of self-defense may also apply to the defense of your property. However, there are a few more restrictions on how you may defend property because a property is not as important as human safety in the eyes of the law. In general, it is never permissible to use deadly force against someone in defense of property.
You may use force to defend your property against trespass or theft. However, the property in question must be lawfully in your possession. Unlike self-defense for people, defense of property does not extend to the property of others. Additionally, before using force to defend your property, you must request the perpetrator to stop what they are doing and give them a chance to leave willingly. However, this requirement may not apply if you believe making such a request would be dangerous.
If you were the person doing the trespassing against someone else’s property, you may not use force against that other person and claim self-defense. However, your situation may become complicated if you mistakenly yet genuinely believed the property was yours.
The principles of self-defense may extend to the defense of your property, depending on the circumstances of your case. Please speak with our Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers for more information.
Contact Our Philadelphia Criminal Self-Defense Lawyer
If you or someone you know has been charged with a violent crime, but your actions were committed in self-defense or defense of another, you should speak with our Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers. Call The Law Offices of Lloyd Long at (215) 302-0171 to discuss your case.