Self-defense is a broad term that encompasses using force against another person who you believe wants to cause you immediate harm. Certain factors have to be present before labeling something as self-defense, and these factors can vary depending on where you are in the country.
If all of these factors are present, you can argue that you acted in self-defense if you receive a charge of a battery, aggravated assault or manslaughter. To understand if this is a valid defense in your case, you need to know how Pennsylvania defines self-defense.
In Pennsylvania, an act of self-protection occurs when one party truly believes that forceful retaliation is necessary to prevent injury due to another party’s unlawful act of violence. There are some exceptions to the self-defense argument, such as when the person who seeks to defend themselves actually provoked the aggressive action in the first place. Other exceptions include forcefully attempting to resist arrest, even an unlawful arrest, and using lethal force against a perpetrator when using nonlethal force would have been enough to ward off the threat.
In Pennsylvania, as well as in certain other states, the castle doctrine permits you to use lethal force to defend yourself against an intruder in your home, car or place of work. In these places, you do not have to retreat from the threat, even if you are able to do so.
Knowing how Pennsylvania defines self-defense helps you understand if you can take lawful action when you experience an imminent threat of harm from another person.