DiCindio Law LLC | October 14, 2021 | Criminal Law
Under Pennsylvania law, you are allowed to defend yourself when you face certain types of threats. If it is justified, the law allows you to even use deadly force or a weapon to defend yourself or others. You can even use a weapon, and sometimes deadly force, when it is justifiable for you to do so.
If you defend yourself, you might still be charged with assault or murder. Self-defense is an affirmative defense, meaning that you can raise it in your defense after you have been charged. In some cases, the police will investigate what happened to determine whether or not your actions were justified.
Getting help from an experienced criminal defense lawyer at DiCindio Law during this process or after you have been charged is critical. In some cases, people will not face criminal charges when they have acted in self-defense or in defense of others. If the police do charge you with a crime, however, you will definitely need the help of a criminal defense attorney.
What Is Self-Defense?
Under 18 Pa.C.S. § 505, self-defense is an affirmative defense that can be raised in cases in which your use of force was justified. When you claim that you acted in self-defense, you are admitting that you did what occurred and that your actions were not an accident.
However, you are also stating that what you did was because you had to defend yourself against a perpetrator who was threatening immediate physical injury or death.
Using force against another is normally criminal in Pennsylvania. However, if you did so because you reasonably believed that doing so was necessary to protect yourself from physical injury by another person who was using unlawful force, it is justified and will not be considered to be illegal.
Even killing a perpetrator might be justified when you do so to protect your life or to prevent yourself from suffering serious bodily injuries when the circumstances cause you to reasonably fear that you will suffer serious injuries or be killed by the assailant unless you kill him or her.
You have the burden of claiming self-defense and presenting some evidence to justify the jury’s finding that you acted in self-defense since it is an affirmative defense. If you meet your burden of proof, the government will then have to overcome your self-defense claim by presenting evidence showing that you did not act in self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt.
When Can You Assert Self-Defense?
To claim self-defense, you must have reasonably believed that you had to use force to protect yourself against imminent bodily injury or death by a perpetrator who was using unlawful force.
Deadly force can be used when you reasonably believe that using it is necessary to protect yourself against the following types of harm:
- Serious bodily injury
However, there is a duty to retreat in Pennsylvania. If you could have safely and completely avoided the threat by retreating, you generally cannot claim self-defense. However, you do not have a duty to retreat when you are attacked in your home or workplace unless you were the initial aggressor or were attacked by someone else who also worked at your workplace.
Myths About Self-Defense
There are several myths that people believe about when you can use deadly force to defend yourself. You are not required to give a verbal warning before shooting an assailant in self-defense. You also do not have to give a warning shot before you shoot or give the assailant a chance to surrender before shooting him or her.
You also do not have to tell the assailant that you are armed, shoot to wound him or her before using deadly force, or call 911 before you do. Finally, after defending yourself, you are not required to give a statement to the police and should avoid doing so without an attorney.
Limitations On Using Force
There are some limitations on your right to use force to defend yourself. For example, you cannot use force to defend yourself after you first provoked or attacked the other person. For example, if you punched another person in the face in a bar, you could not then claim that your subsequent actions to defend yourself when that person threatened to punch you back justified your conduct.
Self-defense also cannot be claimed when your use of force was against a police officer who was trying to place you under arrest. You also cannot claim self-defense when you used force against a homeowner who was trying to defend his or her property or self. For example, if you broke into someone’s home at night and attacked the occupant, you would not be able to claim that you were defending yourself when you shot him or her after he or she pulled a gun on you.
If you acted in self-defense, you will have to assert your claim in court during your defense. You will also have to present some type of evidence that demonstrates your actions were justified. You must show that the way in which you acted complied with the law of self-defense.
If you have not been charged yet, your attorney can help you assert your claim of self-defense to the police to try to keep you from being charged with a crime by the prosecutor. If you have already been charged, you will need to assert self-defense to a jury to try to have the charges against you dismissed or convince the prosecutor that you acted in self-defense to get him or her to dismiss your charges.
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 DiCindioLaw, LLC to schedule a free initial consultation.
DiCindio Law, LLC
29 S Walnut St
West Chester, PA 19382
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