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Pennsylvania Self Defense Laws

2010 Pennsylvania Code Title 18 - CRIMES AND OFFENSES. Chapter 5 - General Principles of Justification

502. Justification a defense

In any prosecution based on conduct which is justifiable under this chapter, justification is a defense.

503. Justification generally

(a) General rule.--Conduct which the actor believes to be necessary to avoid a harm or evil to himself or to another is justifiable if:
(1) the harm or evil sought to be avoided by such conduct is greater than that sought to be prevented by the law defining the offense charged;
(2) neither this title nor other law defining the offense provides exceptions or defenses dealing with the specific situation involved; and
(3) a legislative purpose to exclude the justification claimed does not otherwise plainly appear.

(b) Choice of evils.--When the actor was reckless or negligent in bringing about the situation requiring a choice of harms or evils or in appraising the necessity for his conduct, the justification afforded by this section is unavailable in a prosecution for any offense for which recklessness or negligence, as the case may be, suffices to establish culpability.

505. Use of force in self-protection

(a) Use of force justifiable for protection of the person.-- The use of force upon or toward another person 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.
(b) Limitations on justifying necessity for use of force.
(1) The use of force is not justifiable under this section:
(i) to resist an arrest which the actor knows is being made by a peace officer, although the arrest is unlawful; or
(ii) to resist force used by the occupier or possessor of property or by another person on his behalf, where the actor knows that the person using the force is doing so under a claim of right to protect the property, except that this limitation shall not apply if:
(A) the actor is a public officer acting in the performance of his duties or a person lawfully assisting him therein or a person making or assisting in a lawful arrest;
(B) the actor has been unlawfully dispossessed of the property and is making a reentry or recaption justified by section 507 of this title (relating to use of force for the protection of property); or
(C) the actor believes that such force is necessary to protect himself against death or serious bodily injury.

(2) The use of deadly force is not justifiable under this section unless the actor believes that such force is necessary to protect himself against death, serious bodily injury, kidnapping or sexual intercourse compelled by force or threat; nor is it justifiable if:
(i) the actor, with the intent of causing death or serious bodily injury, provoked the use of force against himself in the same encounter; or
(ii) the actor knows that he can avoid the necessity of using such force with complete safety by retreating or by surrendering possession of a thing to a person asserting a claim of right thereto or by complying with a demand that he abstain from any action which he has no duty to take, except that:
(A) the actor is not obliged to retreat from his dwelling or place of work, unless he was the initial aggressor or is assailed in his place of work by another person whose place of work the actor knows it to be; and
(B) a public officer justified in using force in the performance of his duties or a person justified in using force in his assistance or a person justified in using force in making an arrest or preventing an escape is not obliged to desist from efforts to perform such duty, effect such arrest or prevent such escape because of resistance or threatened resistance by or on behalf of the person against whom such action is directed.

(3) Except as required by paragraphs (1) and (2) of this subsection, a person employing protective force may estimate the necessity thereof under the circumstances as he believes them to be when the force is used, without retreating, surrendering possession, doing any other act which he has no legal duty to do or abstaining from any lawful action.
(c) Use of confinement as protective force.--The justification afforded by this section extends to the use of confinement as protective force only if the actor takes all reasonable measures to terminate the confinement as soon as he knows that he safely can, unless the person confined has been arrested on a charge of crime.

506. Use of force for the protection of other persons

(a) General rule.--The use of force upon or toward the person of another is justifiable to protect a third person when:

(1) the actor would be justified under section 505 of this title (relating to use of force in self-protection) in using such force to protect himself against the injury he believes to be threatened to the person whom he seeks to protect;

(2) under the circumstances as the actor believes them to be, the person whom he seeks to protect would be justified in using such protective force; and

(3) the actor believes that his intervention is necessary for the protection of such other person.

(b) Exceptions.--Notwithstanding subsection (a) of this section:
(1) When the actor would be obliged under section 505 of this title to retreat, to surrender the possession of a thing or to comply with a demand before using force in self- protection, he is not obliged to do so before using force for the protection of another person, unless he knows that he can thereby secure the complete safety of such other person.
(2) When the person whom the actor seeks to protect would be obliged under section 505 of this title to retreat, to surrender the possession of a thing or to comply with a demand if he knew that he could obtain complete safety by so doing, the actor is obliged to try to cause him to do so before using force in his protection if the actor knows that he can obtain complete safety in that way.
(3) Neither the actor nor the person whom he seeks to protect is obliged to retreat when in the dwelling or place of work of the other to any greater extent than in his own.

507. Use of force for the protection of property

(a) Use of force justifiable for protection of property.-- The use of force upon or toward the person of another is justifiable when the actor believes that such force is immediately necessary:
(1) to prevent or terminate an unlawful entry or other trespass upon land or a trespass against or the unlawful carrying away of tangible movable property, if such land or movable property is, or is believed by the actor to be, in his possession or in the possession of another person for whose protection he acts; or
(2) to effect an entry or reentry upon land or to retake tangible movable property, if:
(i) the actor believes that he or the person by whose authority he acts or a person from whom he or such other person derives title was unlawfully dispossessed of such land or movable property and is entitled to possession; and
(ii) (A) the force is used immediately or on fresh pursuit after such dispossession; or
(B) the actor believes that the person against whom he uses force has no claim of right to the possession of the property and, in the case of land, the circumstances, as the actor believes them to be, are of such urgency that it would be an exceptional hardship to postpone the entry or reentry until a court order is obtained.

(b) Meaning of possession.--For the purpose of subsection (a) of this section:
(1) A person who has parted with the custody of property to another who refuses to restore it to him is no longer in possession, unless the property is movable and was and still is located on land in his possession.
(2) A person who has been dispossessed of land does not regain possession thereof merely by setting foot thereon.
(3) A person who has a license to use or occupy real property is deemed to be in possession thereof except against the licensor acting under claim of right.

(c) Limitations on justifiable use of force.
(1) The use of force is justifiable under this section only if the actor first requests the person against whom such force is used to desist from his interference with the property, unless the actor believes that:
(i) such request would be useless; (ii) it would be dangerous to himself or another person to make the request; or
(iii) substantial harm will be done to the physical condition of the property which is sought to be protected before the request can effectively be made.
(2) The use of force to prevent or terminate a trespass is not justifiable under this section if the actor knows that the exclusion of the trespasser will expose him to substantial danger of serious bodily injury.
(3) The use of force to prevent an entry or reentry upon land or the recaption of movable property is not justifiable under this section, although the actor believes that such reentry or caption is unlawful, if:
(i) the reentry or recaption is made by or on behalf of a person who was actually dispossessed of the property; and
(ii) it is otherwise justifiable under subsection (a)(2).

(4) (i) The use of deadly force is justifiable under this section if:
(A) there has been an entry into the actor's dwelling;
(B) the actor neither believes nor has reason to believe that the entry is lawful; and
(C) the actor neither believes nor has reason to believe that force less than deadly force would be adequate to terminate the entry.
(ii) If the conditions of justification provided in subparagraph (i) have not been met, the use of deadly force is not justifiable under this section unless the actor believes that:
(A) the person against whom the force is used is attempting to dispossess him of his dwelling otherwise than under a claim of right to its possession; or
(B) such force is necessary to prevent the commission of a felony in the dwelling.
(d) Use of confinement as protective force.--The justification afforded by this section extends to the use of confinement as protective force only if the actor takes all reasonable measures to terminate the confinement as soon as he knows that he can do so with safety to the property, unless the person confined has been arrested on a charge of crime.
(e) Use of device to protect property.--The justification afforded by this section extends to the use of a device for the purpose of protecting property only if:
(1) the device is not designed to cause or known to create a substantial risk of causing death or serious bodily injury;
(2) the use of the particular device to protect the property from entry or trespass is reasonable under the circumstances, as the actor believes them to be; and
(3) the device is one customarily used for such a purpose or reasonable care is taken to make known to probable intruders the fact that it is used.
(f) Use of force to pass wrongful obstructor.--The use of force to pass a person whom the actor believes to be intentionally or knowingly and unjustifiably obstructing the actor from going to a place to which he may lawfully go is justifiable, if:
(1) the actor believes that the person against whom he uses force has no claim of right to obstruct the actor;
(2) the actor is not being obstructed from entry or movement on land which he knows to be in the possession or custody of the person obstructing him, or in the possession or custody of another person by whose authority the obstructor acts, unless the circumstances, as the actor believes them to be, are of such urgency that it would not be reasonable to postpone the entry or movement on such land until a court order is obtained; and
(3) the force used is not greater than it would be justifiable if the person obstructing the actor were using force against him to prevent his passage.
(Dec. 19, 1980, P.L.1310, No.235, eff. imd.)


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