How Does Self Defense Work in Pennsylvania?

Legally reviewed by:
Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford P.C.
October 6, 2021

How Does Self Defense Work in Pennsylvania?Self-defense typically characterizes actions taken to protect yourself from physical harm. It provides legal recourse for someone that feels compelled to respond to a situation in a way that might usually be considered criminal. Yet, self-defense remains one of the more misinterpreted legal terms in Pennsylvania. 

Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford are well-versed in self-defense cases and helps clients considering this legal path. Understanding how self-defense works in Pennsylvania is essential to mounting a successful case and implementing it appropriately.

What Is the Self-Defense Law in Pennsylvania?

The law on self-defense in Pennsylvania is centered on the idea that one person has the right to defend themselves from an attack from another. Pennsylvania’s self-defense statute is 505 (a): Use of Force in Self Protection. The statute reads as follows: 

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

The law is clear on the reason a person might use self-defense. However, every situation is different, which is the reason hiring a Pennsylvania self-defense attorney is a critical decision. 

When Can Self-Defense Be Invoked?

The “immediately necessary” component of the law is one of the critical components of using self-defense legally in Pennsylvania. For example, if someone harms you one day, you cannot harm them another day in the name of self-defense. The purpose of the Pennsylvania self-defense law is to provide legal recourse for those that feel the need to protect themselves when they are in harm’s way. 

It is also important to note that physical positioning plays a role in the use of self-defense. If someone physically harms you and then walks away, attacking when the person turns their back would not typically support a claim of self-defense. 

Self-defense may be used in situations when a person might be fearful of:

  • Death
  • Severe bodily injury
  • Abduction
  • Sexual assault

Limitations of Self-Defense Laws in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania self-defense laws are stringent to ensure that when used legally, there were no other options available to the individual at that time. As such, there are some limitations to relying on self-defense laws in Pennsylvania. They include: 

  • Using self-defense during an arrest
  • Resisting force by someone defending property to which they have a rightful claim (i.e., intruding on private property and the property owner defends themselves and their land)
  • Responding with force in a situation you provoked
  • Failing to safely retreat from a situation when it is possible to do so unless it is a personal dwelling or place of employment

Work with a Criminal Defense Attorney for Self-Defense Cases in Pennsylvania

Evoking self-defense might seem like the best line of defense, but this may not be the appropriate approach every time. The ideal time to use self-defense in legal representation necessitates a clear understanding of this statute. As such, working with a reputable team of criminal defense attorneys is essential to make sound legal decisions on a case-by-case basis. 

Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford offers you a team of criminal defense attorneys with extensive experience in self-defense cases. For more than 65 years, the firm has worked with clients in and around Southeastern Pennsylvania to ensure that the path you choose for representation will provide you with the best outcome for your circumstances. To receive a free consultation, call (215) 798-7081 or contact us here

Legally reviewed by:
Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford P.C.
Pennsylvania Attorney's
October 6, 2021
Established in 1952 by Irwin S. Rubin, Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford P.C. boasts over 65 years of experience serving clients throughout Pennsylvania. Renowned for its commitment to ethical representation, the firm has garnered prestigious accolades, including being named the "Best Law Firm" for its outstanding legal defense work by U.S. News & World Report. Their team of seasoned attorneys, recognized as Pennsylvania Super Lawyers and Rising Stars, brings unparalleled expertise to a wide range of legal matters, ensuring exceptional representation for individuals, families, businesses, and organizations.