Many states have laws about the use of force in self-defense. Some states have “Stand Your Ground” laws that allow people to use force, even deadly force, to defend themselves under certain circumstances.
Pennsylvania has Stand Your Ground laws throughout the state, including Philadelphia. Under these laws, people may use force to defend themselves or others if they feel their safety is threatened without the need to retreat or escape. Under specific circumstances, they can even use deadly force. Historically, these laws only applied when a person was in their home, place of work, or vehicle. However, the law has expanded so that people need not retreat even outside their homes, but only under certain conditions. Stand Your Ground laws typically do not apply when a person is protecting property or if the assailant has a right to be in the place where the altercation occurred.
Philadelphia is a wonderful city, but it is not free from crime. If you were attacked and used force in self-defense, speak to our Philadelphia criminal defense attorneys immediately. For a free case review, call The Law Offices of Lloyd Long at (215) 302-0171.
What is Philadelphia’s Stand Your Ground Law?
Pennsylvania’s Stand Your Ground law can be found under 18 Pa.C.S. § 505(b)(2.3). Under this law, you can use deadly force to defend yourself if you believe you are in immediate danger from a gun or other weapon in a location where you are allowed to be.
The Stand Your Ground law applies in numerous circumstances. Traditionally, the law applied only in a person’s home, place of work, or vehicle. This more limited version of the law is known as the Castle Doctrine, named for the notion that a person’s home is their castle. It was expanded so that, under specific circumstances, you can use force outside your home without having to retreat or escape from the assailant.
Inside the home, people are usually protected by the Castle Doctrine, which allows them to use force without a duty to retreat if they are attacked in their homes. Stand Your Ground laws come up when a person is attacked outside their home. For example, the law comes up in cases where a person is attacked on the street, such as in a robbery or mugging. If you used force in self-defense, speak to our Bucks County criminal defense attorneys immediately.
Using the Stand Your Ground Law as a Defense in Philadelphia
The Stand Your Ground law has a few nuances and caveats that make it tricky to understand in certain situations. While using force to protect yourself in the home has long been held in high regard, things are a bit different outside the home. Our Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers have handled various cases of self-defense and can assist you in your case.
In Your Home
The Stand Your Ground law does not apply to attacks inside the home. Instead, as mentioned earlier, the long-standing Castle Doctrine might applies if you are attacked in your home, place of work, or vehicle.
In many states, self-defense laws require you first to try to find a means of escape before using force if you are attacked outside your home. For example, if someone attacks you on the street, and there is no Stand Your Ground law, you must try to escape before resorting to force. Essentially, force and deadly force should only be a last resort.
This distinction is important because you cannot claim Pennsylvania’s Stand Your Ground law as a defense for your use of force if you are attacked in your home. While the same or similar principles of the Stand Your Ground law apply, you are instead protected by the Castle Doctrine.
To use force in self-defense in your home, you must reasonably believe that force is necessary to protect you from harm, kidnapping, sexual assault, or death. If an intruder is clearly harmless, this defense might not apply.
You are presumed to have a reasonable belief that force or deadly force is necessary if the person entering your home is doing so by force or attempting to remove someone from your home forcibly. Our Montgomery County criminal defense lawyers can help you if you used force to stop someone unlawfully entering your home.
Outside Your Home
Outside your home, there has traditionally been a requirement that you try to escape before using force or deadly force. However, according to Pennsylvania’s Stand Your Ground law under 18 Pa.C.S. § 505(b)(2.3), there is no requirement to retreat or find an escape route if the following conditions are present:
- You had a right to be in the location where the attack occurred.
- You reasonably believed that force or deadly force was necessary to protect yourself from harm, kidnapping, sexual assault, or death.
- The person you used force against used or displayed a firearm or any other weapon apparently capable of deadly use.
For example, if someone attempted to rob you at gunpoint while you were walking on a public sidewalk, you could use potentially deadly force to protect yourself if the above criteria are met. This is considered an expansion of the Castle Doctrine and protects you outside the home. Speak to our Northeast Philadelphia criminal defense attorneys if you believe your use of force was justified.
Limits to Philadelphia’s Stand Your Ground Law
It is important to take note of when the Stand Your Ground law cannot be used. If you provoked the attack by the other person to be able to use force against them, you cannot claim self-defense under the Stand Your Ground law. Not only that, but your belief of imminent harm must be reasonable. If someone jokingly points a toy water pistol at you, and the weapon is very obviously a toy, any belief of imminent danger might be considered unreasonable.
You also cannot use force under the Stand Your Ground law if the other person has a right to be there. For example, your roommate has a right to enter your home. The law also applies when someone is forcibly removed from your home. If the person being removed is a child and the person removing them is their parent or legal guardian, you cannot use justifiable force to stop them.
Stand Your Ground laws also do not apply if you were engaged in criminal activity at the time of the encounter. Similarly, if the house where the encounter happened was being used to further some criminal activity, you cannot claim self-defense under the Stand Your Ground law. Our Delaware County criminal defense attorneys have handled various self-defense cases and can review your case to see if you can use the Stand Your Ground law.
This law also does not apply to members of law enforcement. For example, if a police officer is lawfully entering your home to execute a warrant or for other reasons, you cannot use force against them.
Call Our Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorney for Help
If you were criminally charged for what you claim was an act of self-defense, the Stand Your Ground law might protect you. For a free case review, contact our Philadelphia criminal defense attorneys now. Call The Law Offices of Lloyd Long at (215) 302-0171.