The prospect of having to fire warning shots is a stressful one. Most likely, if you find yourself in a situation where firing warning shots is necessary, the personal safety of you or a loved one is of primary concern. You should know that the legal consequences of firing a warning shot in Pennsylvania are not straightforward.
If you were in a situation that required you to fire a warning shot in self-defense, you should consult with an experienced self-defense attorney. The experienced team at Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg, & Gifford, P.C. can help you navigate the legal minefield involved in a self-defense case.
Firearm Laws in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, any use of a firearm will be considered deadly force. Warning shots, even if they are aimed at non-vital areas, still can be considered deadly force. Furthermore, the use of any caliber weapon would be considered deadly force. Legally, this means that if you fire a warning shot, you will be responsible for the outcome. Although there is not an explicit law regarding warning shots specifically, there are certain statutes in place that govern self-defense and firearms. The following are such laws:
Stand Your Ground
Like most states, Pennsylvania has a “Stand Your Ground” provision within its self-defense law that was passed in 2011. Defendants in self-defense cases no longer have the burden of proof. Instead, the prosecution has to show that the defendant did not act in self-defense. This shifting of the burden of proof grants further protection to individuals who are attacked and take potentially deadly measures against their assailants.
The Castle Doctrine
Building on these self-defense laws, Pennsylvania has instituted the Castle Doctrine. The Castle Doctrine states that there are three specific situations in which it is assumed that the use of deadly force is reasonable. The three situations include:
- If someone is in the process of unlawfully entering your home, work, or occupied vehicle
- If someone has unlawfully entered your home, work, or occupied vehicle
- If someone tries to unlawfully remove you from your home, work, or occupied vehicle
If you believe that either of the above self-defense laws apply to your situation, you should consult with a skilled self-defense attorney who can help you defend yourself and preserve your rights.
When Can You Use Self-Defense in Pennsylvania?
Under Pennsylvania law, the self-defense provision reads that the use of force 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.” Four of the most commonly accepted situations in which self-defense is considered necessary are:
- Serious bodily injury
You have the right to use self-defense when you are faced with any of the above circumstances. Furthermore, you are not legally required to perform the following acts before using deadly force in a self-defense case:
- Issue a verbal warning
- Shoot one or more warning shots
- Warn the pursuer that you have a firearm on you
- Shoot to injure or deter violence
- Give the pursuer an opportunity to retreat
- Call 911 before or after using deadly force
Self-defense in Pennsylvania must be necessary and proportional. Necessary is defined as “immediately necessary,” which translates to imminent. Deadly force can be used only if the threat of death or serious bodily injury is imminent. Proportional means reasonable under the circumstances; however, what is reasonable under the circumstances is highly fact dependent.
Contact the Experienced Self-Defense Attorneys at Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford, P.C.
If you have used deadly force in self-defense, it is extremely important that you have a knowledgeable, experienced legal team at your disposal. The criminal attorneys at Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford, P.C. have more than sixty-five years of combined experience in the Pennsylvania legal community. If you are seeking assistance in a self-defense case, you can call us at (215) 822-7575 or contact us here to schedule a free consultation.