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Pennsylvania’s Castle Doctrine Allows You to Stand Your Ground

In 2011, Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett signed legislation amending the commonwealth’s laws of self-defense to strengthen the Castle Doctrine for home invasions and “stand your ground” for altercations in public places. There are many misconceptions about the principle behind “stand your ground,” especially in light of the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case during which the media often invoked Florida’s “stand your ground” law, even though it was never truly at issue.

Do “stand your ground” laws invoke the Wild, Wild West?

Pennsylvania’s “stand your ground” law says that a person who feels endangered does not have a duty to retreat before using force, even deadly force, in self-defense. Opponents of the law say it emboldens individuals who could diffuse a confrontation by simply walking away, and the result is more incidents of violence. But a close examination of the text of PA Code § 505 indicates that is unlikely. According to the code, the threatened person still cannot use force unless:

(ii) the actor believes it is immediately necessary to [use force] to protect himself against death, serious bodily injury, kidnapping or sexual intercourse by force or threat; and

(iii) the person against whom the force is used displays or otherwise uses:

(A) a firearm or replica of a firearm as defined in 42 Pa.C.S. § 9712 (relating to sentences for offenses committed with firearms); or

(B) any other weapon readily or apparently capable of lethal use.

The circumstances described in the law could probably not be defused if the threatened person simply walked away. So it’s logical not to require the person to do so.

Threatened parties who use deadly force can face criminal charges

Despite additional protections from the amended self-defense law, Pennsylvanians who use deadly force, such as firearms, can still face criminal charges and civil lawsuits. The law of self-defense is complex. If you find yourself in a bind for exercising your right to protect yourself in your home, your vehicle or out in public, contact an experienced Reading criminal defense attorney.

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