Pepper spray and mace are substances that cause irritation and pain when sprayed in someone’s eyes, nose, or mouth. These substances are considered non-lethal but are designed to incapacitate someone temporarily. They are often marketed as self-defense tools and are widely available in Pennsylvania.
Pepper spray and mace are legal to purchase and carry, although some restrictions might apply in certain circumstances. While any person of any age can buy and carry pepper spray or mace, they often cannot be taken to places like schools, courthouses, or government offices. Other than that, there are few restrictions. However, these substances could come up in charges for other criminal offenses.
If you used pepper spray or mace as a tool for self-defense but are now facing criminal charges, our Philadelphia criminal defense attorneys can help. Our team is available for free case evaluations. Call The Law Offices of Lloyd Long at (215) 302-0171 as soon as possible.
Are Mace and Pepper Spray Legal in Philadelphia?
Mace and pepper spray are both legal in Philadelphia. In fact, there are very few restrictions on these substances. Anyone, even minors, can carry pepper spray and mace. There are no laws making possession of pepper spray or mace a criminal offense.
Pepper spray and mace are common self-defense tools. They are non-lethal and are designed to incapacitate would-be attackers by temporarily blinding them or causing significant pain and irritation. When these substances are sprayed in a person’s face, they can cause irritation, pain, coughing, nausea, swelling, and other unfortunate symptoms. However, these symptoms tend to be short-lived, lasting less than an hour.
While there are no laws specifically criminalizing mace and pepper spray, you might encounter problems if you are prohibited from owning firearms or other weapons. For example, people with certain felonies in their criminal records, people on probation or parole, or people bound by protective orders in domestic violence cases might be barred from having weapons. Our Bucks County criminal defense lawyers can help you figure out whether carrying pepper spray or mace would cause you legal issues.
Restrictions on Pepper Spray in Philadelphia
While there are no statutory restrictions on pepper spray or mace, you might encounter limitations in certain places. It is one thing to carry pepper spray when you walk to work each day or take public transportation, but certain places might not allow you to have it. For example, having pepper spray in a school or a government office might get you into trouble. However, you might not necessarily be criminally charged in these scenarios but rather asked to leave.
How you react in these situations is more likely to land you in legal trouble than actually having pepper spray or mace in the first place. Suppose you enter a school building for a child’s basketball game and you are told you cannot enter with pepper spray. If you comply and leave the pepper spray outside, it is unlikely you would face any legal issues. If, instead of leaving, you become defensive or hostile, demanding to enter with your pepper spray, you could be in trouble. At that point, the police might be called to remove you, and you could face criminal trespass charges. If you find yourself in such a situation, call our Delaware County criminal defense attorneys for help.
Can I Be Charged with a Crime for Using Pepper Spray or Mace in Philadelphia?
Pepper spray and mace may be legal to purchase and carry in Philadelphia, but that does not mean they can be freely used to commit a crime. Remember, these are self-defense tools designed to cause pain and discomfort. It is one thing to use them as a means of defending yourself, but it is quite another to use them to harm intentionally others.
Using pepper spray or mace to cause harm to someone else could lead to charges for assault. According to 18 Pa.C.S. § 2701, simple assault may be charged for intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing or attempting to cause someone bodily harm. This offense is often charged as a misdemeanor of the first, second, or third degree, depending on the circumstances. Something like pepper spray or mace could easily be used to cause bodily harm. If the victim is someone like a police officer, probation officer, or firefighter, you could be charged with aggravated assault under 18 Pa.C.S. § 2702, which is a very serious felony.
Assault could also be charged if you were mistaken that you needed to use self-defense.
You could feasibly be charged for using pepper spray or mace as a weapon in another crime. Crimes like robbery, burglary, kidnapping, and more could apply if pepper spray or mace was allegedly used as a weapon to threaten or harm the victim. It is also possible that prosecutors will try to upgrade your charges because you used a weapon. Our Montgomery County criminal defense lawyers can help you fight these criminal allegations.
Defenses to Charges for Using Pepper Spray or Mace in Philadelphia
Pepper spray and mace are designed to be self-defense tools. In fact, many people charged with crimes involving pepper spray or mace often claim they were only acting in self-defense. The law pertaining to self-defense can be found under 18 Pa.C.S. § 505. The law allows you to use force against another person if you reasonably believe it is necessary to protect yourself from unlawful force.
This rule is deceptively simple, as it is filled with various caveats and nuances. First, your belief that force is required to protect yourself must be reasonable. Even a genuinely held belief that you are under attack is not good enough if your belief is unreasonable. An unreasonable belief might be the belief that someone is assaulting you because they merely bumped into you on a crowded sidewalk.
In addition, your use of force should be proportional to the force being used against you. Primarily, this means that you cannot use deadly force to combat non-deadly force. However, pepper spray and mace are non-lethal and are typically a proportional response, even to an unarmed assailant.
If you used the pepper spray in a fight that you entered willingly, you might not be able to claim self-defense. On top of that, if you were the aggressor who instigated a fight or altercation, you might not be able to claim self-defense. Contact our Philadelphia weapons charge defense lawyers for help with your pepper spray or mace-related charges.
Call Our Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorneys for Help
Carrying pepper spray or mace is usually not a legal problem. However, you may face criminal charges related to the unlawful use of these substances. Call our Northeast Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers for guidance. Call The Law Offices of Lloyd Long at (215) 302-0171 for an evaluation of your case, free of charge.