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Pennsylvania Self Defense Laws

Unlike other topics in the American legal system, the concept of self defense is not widely debated. It's a universally practiced doctrine that allows people to use force in order to protect themselves from death and great bodily harm. The laws that regulate self defense take behavior that under different circumstances would constitute a crime and allows that behavior to serve as a valid legal defense. Although the concept is universally embraced, there are forms of self defense laws that produce controversy, such as "stand your ground laws." States that incorporate these principles allow the use of deadly force without a duty to retreat from danger under almost all circumstances.

The Castle Doctrine

Pennsylvania's stand your ground law is an expanded version of the castle doctrine. This law allows you to use force without first having to retreat from imminent danger if you're in your home, workplace, or in a public place where you have a right to be. This is based on the old notion that your home (or car, or worksite) is your castle, a place where you feel secure; if you are threatened there, then you shouldn't be forced to retreat from attackers. An exception to the law is that it doesn't apply if you're the initial aggressor in the action.

Pennsylvania Self Defense Laws at a Glance

The chart below provides a summary of laws related to Pennsylvania's self defense laws, including links to important code sections.


Use of force in self-protection: 18 Pa.C.S.A § 505

Use of force for the protection of other persons: 18 Pa.C.S.A § 506

Use of Force in Self-Protection

  • You can use deadly force when you reasonably believe that the force is necessary in order to protect yourself against an unlawful use of force including: death, serious bodily injury, kidnapping or nonconsensual sexual intercourse.
  • You do not have a duty to retreat from your home, car or place of work unless you were an initial aggressor.

Use of Force for the Protection of Others

Deadly force is justified when protecting another in the following examples:

  • If you were in the same situation as the person that you are trying to protect, you could legally use the same force that you will use to protect them.
  • You reasonably believe that the person you are trying to protect would be justified in using such force.
  • You reasonably believe that your help is necessary to protect the other person.

Related Defense

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Pennsylvania Self Defense Laws: Related Resources

Discuss Your Self Defense Case with a Pennsylvania Attorney

Pennsylvania's self defense laws are complex, making it difficult to determine when it's ok to use deadly force. If you're concerned about how the laws affect your case, then you probably need to discuss this serious matter with counsel. Talk to an experienced Pennsylvania attorney who can help you get started today.

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