An assault charge in Pennsylvania threatens your freedom, relationships and other things you may cherish about your life. If convicted, you could face years of incarceration and expensive fines, depending on the severity of the charges (for example, simple vs. aggravated assault).
You may have heard about defendants successfully overcoming or minimizing their situation by exploiting “stand your ground” laws. It is possible to use this defense here in Pennsylvania. Here’s what you need to know.
What does “stand your ground” mean in criminal law?
Pennsylvania law allows you to use force, including deadly force, to defend yourself or someone else from an imminent threat. In some states, those facing harm have a duty to retreat or run away before resorting to force. Pennsylvania imposes no such requirement when you are, or believe you are, in immediate physical danger. For example, if someone tries to rob or harm you while you are walking home, you may be justified in using force to protect yourself.
When is it a viable defense?
Stand-your-ground laws may improve your situation if you are charged with harming another, but they are not a blanket justification for violence and have limitations and requirements. For example, you cannot expect this defense to work if you provoked the incident.
Other requirements include the following:
- You were in a place you had a right to be.
- You were not breaking the law.
- You reasonably believed you or another was in immediate danger.
- You were not possessing a firearm unlawfully.
- You used a level of force proportional to the perceived threat.
Legal guidance and a better understanding of assault laws and penalties can help you explore all your defense options, including self-defense.