“Stand your ground” laws have been particularly divisive ever since the case involving the shooting death of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman in 2012. Some critics of these laws have referred to them as “shoot first” laws. Proponents of these laws argue that innocent people are kept out of prison because of them. While these laws might be controversial, they may help people who are charged with homicide or assault for defending themselves. It is important for you to understand the rules that apply to these laws and how they might impact your case’s outcome. If these laws might apply to you, the criminal defense lawyers at DiCindio Law may be able to help you to assert them in your defense.
What is a “stand your ground” law?
Florida passed the first “stand your ground” law in 2005. Many states have passed their own similar laws since that time, including Pennsylvania. Under Pa. Cons. Stat. § 505(b)(2.3), a person who is not acting in a criminal manner and who is not illegally possessing a firearm who is attacked in an area in which he or she would normally have a duty to retreat has a right to stand his or her ground and to use force to protect himself or herself, including deadly force. However, this exclusion to the duty to retreat only applies if the person had the right to be in the place where he or she was. He or she must reasonably believe that using force was necessary to protect against imminent serious bodily injury, death, sexual intercourse, or kidnapping. The attacker must also have been armed with a real gun, an imitation gun, or another lethal weapon such as a knife at the time that the person stood his or her ground.
A serious bodily injury is an injury that may cause permanent disfigurement, a high risk of death, or that causes an impairment of the function of an organ or a body part. This means that Pennsylvania’s stand your ground law does not apply to an ordinary bodily injury such as a minor laceration. In cases in which the person had an imminent fear of an ordinary bodily injury, he or she would not be able to raise the stand your ground law as a defense.
For the weapon that the attacker has, it must be something that the person sees. Other states may not require that the person sees a weapon in the attacker’s possession.
Using deadly force and stand your ground laws
There are some restrictions on Pennsylvania’s stand your ground law that are important to defendants who are facing charges of assault or homicide. Using deadly force will not be considered to be justifiable in situations in which the person who used the force was not defending herself or himself against serious bodily injury, death, sexual intercourse, or kidnapping.
In other circumstances people are not required to retreat from their own homes or workplaces unless they provoked the attack or were attacked by a coworker that they knew at their jobs. Not having to retreat while you are in your own home is also called the castle doctrine. The exceptions to your duty to retreat will not apply if you used force against an on-duty police officer who you knew or should have known was an officer.
Contact DiCindio Law
If you are facing serious charges for homicide or assault for defending yourself after you were attacked, it is important for you to learn whether you might be able to assert a defense under the state’s stand your ground law. The experienced criminal defense lawyers at DiCindio Law can review the facts of your case and help you to understand whether the stand your ground law might apply or if a different defense might be available to you. Contact our office today by calling 610.430.3535 to learn about the options that you might have.
The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.
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