Self defense is a legal defense that you can use to win a criminal assault case. Importantly, in Pennsylvania, self defense, if believed by a judge or jury, is a complete defense to an assault charge. Therefore, if the police charge you with simple assault or aggravated assault, it is vital to have an experienced PA self defense lawyer defending you in court.
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.
I have a comprehensive understanding of PA self defense law and how to use the law as a defense against assault charges. Contact me at (215) 752-5282 for a free consultation, or fill out the confidential contact form for an immediate response.
Self Defense Laws in PA
Under PA self defense laws, you can act in self defense if you believe the following:
- Your use of force is immediately necessary to protect yourself from another person’s unlawful use of force on you
This is the Pennsylvania law of self defense in situations where the Defendant uses non-deadly force. An example would be a fistfight between two people. However, a judge will apply a different legal standard in self defense cases involving when the accused employs lethal force.
Furthermore, self defense is considered a justification defense because the accused is considered “justified” in defending themselves against another person’s illegal use of physical force.
Examples of Unlawful Use of Force
Without provocation, a person:
- Punches you
- Forcefully pushes you
- Slaps you in the face
- Kicks you
- Stabs you with a knife or other weapon
- Fires a gun at you
- Points a firearm at you
4 Elements of Self Defense When Deadly Force is Used
In a self defense case involving the use of deadly force, the accused must establish all of the following factors:
- You reasonably believed that you were in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury
- You needed to use deadly force to prevent the physical harm
- You did not provoke the incident which caused you to use deadly force
- You did not violate any legally required duty to retreat from the incident
Once the Defendant presents evidence of these 4 elements, they will be acquitted of the charges unless the prosecutor can prove beyond a reasonable doubt any of the following facts:
- The accused provoked or continued the altercation
- The accused did not reasonably believe they were in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury
- The accused had a legal obligation to retreat from the incident
What if the Accuser is the Initial Aggressor in the Altercation?
Your self defense argument is much more convincing if the evidence shows that the accuser was the initial instigator in the physical confrontation. In fact, jurors are likelier 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?
Pennsylvania law requires that a person have a reasonable belief that they must act in self defense before it is considered lawful or justified.
For example, it would be considered reasonable for a person to act in self defense if, without provocation, another person throws a punch or fires a handgun at you.
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.
Can you go to Jail for Self Defense?
No, in most cases. Most judges and juries would acquit a person the police charged with assault if the accused acted within the Pennsylvania law of self defense.
Does my Use of Force Need to be Equal to the Other Person’s Use of Force?
Yes, in most situations. 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 a vehicle into an unarmed person who approaches your vehicle
- Punching a person who is arguing with you
Does the Burden of Proof Change Once Evidence of Self-Defense is Presented to a Judge or a Jury?
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. Also, the Defendant can introduce circumstantial, direct, and testimonial evidence, such as video or audio recordings or eyewitness testimony, to demonstrate that the accused acted in self defense.
Finally, 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. Finally, the prosecutor must disprove that the Defendant acted in self defense in cases involving deadly and non-deadly force.
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.
What are the Most Important Factors in a PA Self Defense Case?
A criminal defense lawyer will present many 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 toward 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.
Self Defense Attorney
Have the police charged you with an assault crime after you acted in self defense? Then you need to find an experienced self defense lawyer near me. Fortunately, I am among the most successful self defense attorneys in this area. I defend people in Bucks County, Montgomery County, Delaware County, Chester County, and surrounding Pennsylvania Counties.