Do I Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer if I Shoot Someone Who Breaks Into My House in West Chester?

Do I Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer if I Shoot Someone Who Breaks Into My House in West Chester?

Many people own firearms, and for a variety of reasons. Self-defense in the event of an incident is a common reason for keeping a firearm in your home. The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution gives us the right to keep and bear arms. 

However, state and federal laws restrict the use of firearms to protect the public. Therefore, the right to own a gun does not mean you can shoot someone entering your home without justification.

Most self-defense laws require a person to retreat before using deadly force, if possible. However, in others, the Castle Doctrine removes the requirement to retreat before using deadly force to defend yourself in your home. Most states have some form of the Stand Your Ground law that does not require a person to retreat before using deadline force.

What Is Pennsylvania’s Law Regarding the Use of Deadly Force in Your Home?

Pennsylvania’s self-defense law can be found in 18 Pa. C.S. §505. According to Pennsylvania’s self-defense laws, using deadly force is not justified if the person knows they can avoid using deadly force by safely retreating from the situation. In other words, shooting someone would likely not be considered self-defense if you can get away safely.

However, there is an exception for your home. 

The statute also states that you are not obligated to retreat from your home unless you were the initial aggressor. Furthermore, you are presumed to have a reasonable belief that deadly force is required to protect yourself from kidnapping, serious bodily injury, death, or forced sexual intercourse when:

  • The person you use deadly force against is in the process of or has already forcefully and unlawfully entered and is present in a residence, dwelling, or vehicle; OR,
  • The person you use deadly force against is or is attempting to forcefully and unlawfully remove another person against their will from a residence, dwelling, or occupied vehicle; AND,
  • You know or have reason to believe that the forceful and unlawful entry or act is happening or has happened. 

Therefore, if you are in your own home and someone breaks in, you are likely justified in using deadly force. The reason is that you have no obligation to retreat from your home, and the law presumes you have a reasonable belief that the person breaking into your home is there to kill, rape, or kidnap you or cause you serious bodily harm.

Exceptions To Using Deadly Force in Your Home

However, as with most laws, there are exceptions to using deadly force in your home. These include if:

  • The person you shoot has the right to be in the home or is a lawful resident of the home, dwelling, or vehicle;
  • The person you shoot is someone removing a child or grandchild from your home when that person has lawful custody or guardianship of the child;
  • You are committing a criminal act or using your home or vehicle to further criminal activity; OR,
  • The person you shoot is a law enforcement officer acting within his official capacity, and you knew or should have reasonably known the person was a law enforcement officer.

If any of the above exceptions apply, the use of deadly force against someone entering your home is not justified. Furthermore, self-defense only applies in the moment. Therefore, you could not claim self-defense unless the threat of harm is immediate.

Steps To Take After Shooting an Intruder in Your Home in West Chester

Call 911 immediately to report the shooting and request police assistance. Tell the operator where you are located in the home and who else is in the home with you. Remain on the call and follow the police officer’s commands when they arrive.

Even though you intend to claim self-defense, you need legal counsel. Do not make a statement or answer questions until you talk with a West Chester criminal defense lawyer.

It is natural to want to explain your actions because you are innocent. However, talking to the police without an attorney is unwise. 

Self-defense is an affirmative defense to criminal charges. You have the burden of proving that you met the legal requirements for self-defense if you use deadly force. Therefore, you do not want to say anything that could hurt your defense.

Instead, respectfully tell the police officers that you will not make a statement or answer questions without a lawyer present. Beyond telling the officers that someone broke into your home forcing you to protect yourself, remain silent until you speak with an attorney. 

Contact Our Criminal Defense Law Firm in West Chester, PA

If you are facing criminal charges and need legal help, contact the West Chester, PA criminal defense lawyers at DiCindio Law, LLC to schedule a free initial consultation.

DiCindio Law, LLC
29 S Walnut St
West Chester, PA 19382
(610) 430-3535

***This blog article is made available by the law firm publisher for educational purposes and to provide general information, not to provide specific legal advice. By reading, you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the publisher. The above listed information does not include the entire crimes code, annotations, amendments or any recent changes that may be relevant. The information provided is for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These materials are not intended, and should not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. Please contact DiCindio Law, LLC for a consultation and to discuss what law is relevant to your case. ***