Self-Defense in Pennsylvania

Self-Defense in Pennsylvania

Under Pennsylvania law when a crime of violence has been alleged a criminal defense attorney must evaluate the circumstances and determine whether or not self-defense would be an available principle of justification and defense in the criminal case. Whether it be a prosecution of simple assault, harassment, aggravated assault, or even a murder or criminal homicide case, self-defense must be evaluated before moving forward with a strategy for legal defense. Under Pennsylvania law the general principle of self-defense is that the use of force towards another is justifiable if the actor believes that such force is immediately necessary for the purpose of protecting himself against the use of force by another person on the pres

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ent occasion. Still, as with any criminal justification defense there are limits to self-defense in Pennsylvania.

For example there is a limit on the level of force that may be reasonably used which becomes a factual determination for  the jury.  There are also limits on the use of deadly force and when it can be used in a justifiable manner. Finally, there are numerous intricate scenarios where the self-defense or use of force in self-protection statute differentiates between the location of the incident.  For example, different rules may apply if someone is acting in self-defense in their home rather than in public.

Putting forth a self-defense justification defense in Pennsylvania is incredibly involved at times and usually based upon the specific circumstances of a given scenario.

If you or a loved one needs representation on any criminal matter – contact Mike DiCindio, Esq. directly.

  • § 505.  Use of force in self-protection.

(a)  Use of force justifiable for protection of the person.–The use of force upon or toward another person is justifiable when the actor believes that such force is immediately necessary for the purpose of protecting himself against the use of unlawful force by such other person on the present occasion.

(b)  Limitations on justifying necessity for use of force.–

(1)  The use of force is not justifiable under this section:

(i)  to resist an arrest which the actor knows is being made by a peace officer, although the arrest is unlawful; or

(ii)  to resist force used by the occupier or possessor of property or by another person on his behalf, where the actor knows that the person using the force is doing so under a claim of right to protect the property, except that this limitation shall not apply if:

(A)  the actor is a public officer acting in the performance of his duties or a person lawfully assisting him therein or a person making or assisting in a lawful arrest;

(B)  the actor has been unlawfully dispossessed of the property and is making a reentry or recaption justified by section 507 of this title (relating to use of force for the protection of property); or

(C)  the actor believes that such force is necessary to protect himself against death or serious bodily injury.

(2)  The use of deadly force is not justifiable under this section unless the actor believes that such force is necessary to protect himself against death, serious bodily injury, kidnapping or sexual intercourse compelled by force or threat; nor is it justifiable if:

(i)  the actor, with the intent of causing death or serious bodily injury, provoked the use of force against himself in the same encounter; or

(ii)  the actor knows that he can avoid the necessity of using such force with complete safety by retreating, except the actor is not obliged to retreat from his dwelling or place of work, unless he was the initial aggressor or is assailed in his place of work by another person whose place of work the actor knows it to be.


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.  It is intended solely for informational purposes.

Michael D. DiCindio, Esq. is a West Chester criminal defense lawyer and personal injury attorney who represents individuals accused of crimes or injured by the negligence of others throughout all of Chester County, including West Chester, Phoenixville, Malvern, Coatesville, Paoli, Downingtown, Tredyffrin, West Goshen, Honey Brook, Oxford, Devon, Pottstown, Chesterbrook, Parkesburg, Kennett Square, and Avondale