Self-defense is a legal defense that you can use to fight a criminal assault case. Importantly, in Pennsylvania, self-defense, if believed by a judge or jury, is a complete defense to an assault charge. If you are charged with simple assault or aggravated assault, it is vital to understand how self-defense may be able to help you win your case. This blog post will provide an overview of what you should know about Pennsylvania’s self-defense law.
PA Self-Defense Lawyer
I have over a decade of providing skilled and aggressive representation to individuals falsely charged with simple assault or aggravated assault in Bucks County, Montgomery County, Chester County, Delaware County, and the surrounding Pennsylvania Counties. Contact me at (215) 752-5282 for a free consultation or fill out the confidential contact form for an immediate response.
What is Self-Defense in Pennsylvania?
Under Pennsylvania law, you can act in self-defense if you believe using physical force on another is immediately necessary to protect yourself from another person’s unlawful use of force on you.
Examples of Unlawful Use of Force
- A person punches you
- Someone forcefully pushes you
- A person slaps you in the face
- A person kicks you
What if the Accuser is the Initial Aggressor in the Altercation?
Your self-defense argument is much more potent if the evidence shows that the accuser was the initial instigator in the physical confrontation. In addition, jurors are more likely to believe that you lawfully acted in self-defense if the accuser initiated physical contact with you.
What Does “Reasonable Belief” Mean in a Self-Defense Case?
Under Pennsylvania Self-Defense law, a person must reasonably believe that the physical force they use (self-defense) is immediately necessary to protect themselves from the unlawful use of force by the other person.
What if My Use of Force in Self-Defense was Mistaken?
Pennsylvania law allows you to use physical force when you believe you are in actual danger from another person’s illegal use of physical force. In addition, you are also permitted to act in self-defense when you mistakenly but reasonably believe that another person may use unlawful physical force on you.
Does my Use of Force Need to be Equal to the Other Person’s Use of Force?
In most cases, yes. Your response to the use of physical force by another generally needs to be equal or proportional to the physical force applied to you. Otherwise, a judge or jury may reject your claim of self-defense.
Examples of Unequal Use of Force
- Shooting someone in response to being pushed
- Stabbing an unarmed person during an argument
- Driving into an unarmed person who approaches your vehicle
Does the Burden of Proof Change Once Evidence of Self-Defense is Presented?
Yes. The accused is entitled to a specific self-defense jury instruction once evidence of self-defense is offered by the accused from any source. Furthermore, the accused or the accused’s witness can present evidence of self-defense while testifying on the witness stand. In addition, once the accused offers proof of self-defense, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused did not act in self-defense.
Is it Easy for a Prosecutor to Disprove Self-Defense?
No. It is often challenging for a prosecutor to persuade a jury or judge that a person did not act in self-defense. Moreover, jurors are more sympathetic to a person who uses physical force to defend themselves from an unprovoked attack by another person. The prosecution can disprove self-defense by establishing:
- The accused did not believe that they needed to use force to protect themselves from the unlawful use of force by another; or
- The accused’s use of force was unreasonable in light of all the circumstances known to them
What are the Most Important Factors in a PA Self-Defense Case?
A criminal defense lawyer will present many different types of evidence to a jury or a judge in a self-defense trial. Certain factors are much more critical in persuading a judge or jury that self-defense was justified in your case. It is more likely that a jury will acquit you of simple assault or aggravated assault if some or all of the following factors exist in your case:
- The accuser used excessive physical force on you
- You are physically smaller in size than the accuser
- The complainant is physically stronger than you
- The accuser provoked the incident
- The accuser had previously demonstrated violent behavior towards you
In conclusion, self-defense is one of the most successful defenses if the police charge you with simple assault or aggravated assault in Pennsylvania. I have extensive experience conducting over fifty self-defense trials in front of Bucks County, Montgomery County, Chester County and Delaware County juries.
I will use the most effective criminal defense strategies to convince the jurors to acquit you of the charges. Jurors are more likely to sympathize with someone who uses physical force to defend themselves from a violent attacker.
Hire an Experienced PA Self-Defense Criminal Lawyer
You may have a strong claim of self-defense if the police charge you or a family member with simple assault or aggravated assault. I defend persons in Bucks County, Montgomery County, and surrounding Pennsylvania Counties. Phone lines are open 24 hours a day at (215) 752-5282. Contact me for a free initial consultation or fill out the confidential contact form for an immediate response.