“Stand your ground” refers to laws allowing individuals to use deadly force (usually a firearm) when facing a life-or-death situation. These statutes remove any duty to retreat before using force against kidnapping, rape, robbery, or great bodily harm.

Pennsylvania has slightly different laws when it comes to deadly force and self-defense. Keep reading to learn more about PA castle doctrine statutes.

What is a Castle Doctrine?

Castle doctrines are a variation of stand your ground laws. The name comes from the adage, “your home is your castle,” and you have a right to protect yourself, your home, and your loved ones from grave danger.

Castle Doctrine in PA

According to Pennsylvania Statutes Title 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 505, individuals do not have a duty to retreat when threatened in their home, property, or car. This defense also applies if someone attempts to harm you while in your car, RV, campsite tent, hotel room, and anywhere you are currently occupying.

Castle Doctrine in the Workplace

Pennsylvania’s castle doctrine provides less legal coverage for the workplace. Here, you may only use deadly force if:

  • There is a threat of imminent death or severe injury.
  • Safely retreating is not an option.
  • The attacker uses or displays a gun or other lethal weapon.

Pennsylvania Self-Defense Laws

Self-Protection

Pennsylvania Statutes Title 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 505 states that you can use deadly force for self-protection from death, abduction, or serious physical injury. You do not have a duty to retreat from your home, car, or place of work to protect yourself.

Use of Force to Protect Others

Under 18 Pa.C.S.A § 506, the use of deadly force is justifiable to protect others when you believe your help is necessary to save another person’s life. This statute presumes that the person you’re trying to protect would take similar actions if possible. Finally, you may assert self-defense when you are in the same dangerous circumstances as the other person (such as a hostage situation).

Protecting Your Property

You have the right to use deadly force to protect your property, according to 18 Pa.C.S.A § 507. This includes a homeowner discovering someone has broken into their house or confronting an armed and dangerous trespasser on their property.

When Castle Doctrine Does Not Apply

There are specific situations where the castle doctrine is not an applicable defense for using deadly force.

Initial Aggressor

The legal protections for castle doctrine do not apply if you are the initial aggressor.

Encounters with Police Officers

You cannot invoke castle doctrine in situations involving armed police officers who identify themselves and issue a warning.

Criminal Acts

You must have “clean hands” for the castle doctrine to apply; you cannot use this defense for deadly force to justify committing a crime.

Presumption of Legal Right

Castle doctrine statutes don’t generally apply to individuals presumed to have the legal right to enter your home.

These include tenants, landlords, and people with lawful custody to remove your children from your home.

What To Do if Arrested for Deadly Force

Pennsylvania laws allow individuals to defend themselves when faced with potential death or injury. The castle doctrine does not necessarily protect you from being detained or arrested. Police officers must investigate all situations involving deadly force.

Award-winning criminal defense attorney Michael J. Skinner recommends that individuals arrested for deadly force remain silent until a lawyer is present. Tell the arresting officer or questioning detective that you want to exercise your right to remain silent and want an attorney with you.

Everything you say can and will be used against you. Even an innocent or inadvertent remark could jeopardize your freedom.

Call the Skinner Law Firm for a Free Consultation

Pennsylvania has castle doctrine laws that allow individuals to use reasonable judgment and deadly force to protect themselves, others, and property. The Skinner Law Firm understands these laws and how they could apply to your defense.

Call 610-436-1410 or reach out online to schedule a free case evaluation.

Article Author

Michael J. Skinner, the founder of Skinner Law Firm LLC, is a former prosecutor with the Chester County District Attorney’s Office.

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