||November 5, 2014
||Why Do You Own Or Carry A Gun?
We want to hear your stories and your feedback, tell us: why do you own and/or carry a firearm and what do your Second Amendment rights mean to you?
The more responses and feedback we receive, the better we will be able
to serve you, our members. We look forward to your responses.
Vice President of Member Services
To answer Dave�s question, simply click here
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time to do so, simply click the �Like� button at the top of the U.S. Law Shield
page for daily content regarding gun news and law changes across the
country. We appreciate that some members don�t feel comfortable posting
publically that they own firearms; please feel free to still share what
it is you think the Second Amendment means or is intended to do or email
Dave Donchecz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
||Pennsylvania Gun Law: The Castle Doctrine
For a man�s house is his castle, and each man�s home is his safest refuge � Sir Edward Coke 1628 (Institute of the Laws of England)
Dear Members and Friends:
If you have watched the news on TV or read a newspaper, you may have
heard the phrases �Castle Doctrine� and �Stand Your Ground� in reference
to self-defense laws. There has been considerable debate about just
what these laws are and how far they allow someone to go in protecting
themselves, their homes, and their family. Unfortunately, not every news
outlet or blog writer is as informed about these legal concepts as they
The purpose of this article is to introduce these important legal
concepts to you, and explain them clearly enough that you will be better
prepared in case you ever need to protect your family, home, or self
What Is The Castle Doctrine?
The phrase �Castle Doctrine,� is a simple description of a complicated
state law. However, the phrase is not actually found in the applicable
state statutes. The concept of the Castle Doctrine comes from the
philosophy that every person is the King or Queen of their home, and as
such, is entitled to certain privileges that others are not entitled to.
In the context of firearms self-defense law, it generally means that a
person is given the presumption that they were reasonable in using force
or deadly force against an unlawful intruder. Pennsylvania Consolidated
Statute Title 18 �505(b)(2.1) is Pennsylvania�s version of the Castle
Pennsylvania�s Castle Doctrine law affords you legal protection while
inside your �castle� by allowing you to use deadly force against an
unlawful intruder and giving you a presumption of reasonableness under
certain circumstances. In effect, if you know or have reason to believe
that a person is unlawfully and forcefully entering or has entered and
is present in your dwelling, residence or occupied vehicle, or if a
person is unlawfully and forcefully removing or attempting to remove you
or another from your dwelling, occupied vehicle or residence, then
Pennsylvania law gives you the legal presumption that deadly force
against the person to protect yourself against death, serious bodily
injury, kidnapping, or sexual intercourse compelled by force or threat,
is reasonable and justified.
Note that the definitions of �dwelling,� �residence� and �vehicle� are
relatively broad as they apply to the statute. A dwelling is defined as
any building or structure, including any attached porch, deck or patio,
though movable or temporary, or a portion thereof which is for the time
being the home or place of lodging of the actor (the one using deadly
force). A residence is a dwelling in which a person resides, either
temporarily or permanently, or is visiting as an invited guest. Lastly, a
vehicle is a conveyance of any kind, whether or not motorized, that is
designed to transport people or property. As you can see, Pennsylvania�s
Castle Doctrine is far-ranging, applying to everything from your family
home, to a mobile home, to even a tent while you are camping!
Does Pennsylvania�s Castle Doctrine Law Apply To Mere Trespassers?
No. As discussed above, it is legally presumed that deadly force is
reasonable and justified if you know or have reason to believe that a
person is entering or has entered into your dwelling, residence or
occupied vehicle and is still there, or if a person is removing or
trying to remove you or another person from your dwelling, occupied
vehicle, or residence.
This list excludes trespassers who merely step onto your property
without permission. Further, just because an intruder unlawfully enters
into your detached garage or shed, you are not necessarily free to use
deadly force to get them to leave, unless the building is being used as a
residence, i.e. someone is sleeping there overnight. Be sure
that you do not fall victim to the common misconception that the Castle
Doctrine gives you carte blanche to use deadly force against
someone just because they are on your property. This could result in
both criminal charges and a civil lawsuit, things you would be better
You do have a legal right to exclude or remove trespassers from your
land, however, you are limited to using non-deadly force to do so.
Pennsylvania Consolidated Statute Title 18 �507(a) states that if
someone trespasses or unlawfully enters onto your land and/or is
carrying away movable property (e.g. your car), you may use force when
you believe that such force is immediately necessary to prevent these
offenses from occurring. You are also allowed to use force to reenter
land or retake your stolen movable property if you believe you were
unlawfully dispossessed of the land or movable property and are entitled
to possession, and the force is used immediately or in fresh pursuit
after the dispossession; or you believe that the person against whom you
use force has no claim to the property, and in the case of land, the
circumstances as you believe 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. However, you are not justified in using deadly
force in this case!
What If A Trespasser Starts Committing Other Crimes?
If a trespasser has more nefarious motives for being on your property, a
mere criminal trespass or act of carrying away your property may turn
into a more serious crime where you could be justified in using deadly
force to protect your property. Pennsylvania Consolidated Statute Title
18 �507(c)(4) allows a person to use deadly force against a trespasser
who goes beyond being merely present or carrying away movable property.
First, if a trespasser unlawfully enters into a person�s dwelling, the
person does not believe or have reason to believe the entry is lawful,
and the person neither believes nor has reason to believe that force
less than deadly force would be adequate to terminate the entry, then
the use of deadly force against a trespasser may be legally justified.
Additionally, if the previous three conditions are not met, deadly force
may still be legally justified when the person believes that the person
against whom the force is used is attempting to dispossess him or her
of their dwelling other than under a claim of right to its possession,
or that such force is necessary to prevent the commission of a felony in
Once again, however, if a trespasser comes onto your property, refuses
to leave, and is not committing or attempting any of the serious actions
listed above, you are likely not justified in using deadly force to
remove the trespasser from your property. You may be justified in using
reasonable and appropriate physical force if the trespasser is trying to
steal something or commit criminal mischief, but you may not be
justified in shooting your firearm at the trespasser!
Criminal Prosecution Even If You Were Justified
While Pennsylvania law may provide you a legal justification for using
force or deadly force when someone enters and/or tries to remove you
from your dwelling, occupied vehicle, or residence, this does not mean
that you are immune to being arrested and thrown in jail. Even if you
were completely in-the-right and acted according to law, you may still
be subject to all of the complicated and drawn-out processes of the
legal system. Your right to assert a legal justification under the
Castle Doctrine is just that: a legal justification. It is neither a
�Get Out of Jail Free Card,� nor blanket exemption from the legal
In fact, always remember there is a high probability that you will go to
jail and have to post bond to get out long before the issue of
justification is considered by the court. We see cases like this
frequently, not to mention other cases similar to these unfolding all
over the country every day. You may end up having to go through the
process of a criminal trial to assert your justification defense before a
judge or jury in order to be absolved of any guilt in the eyes of the
legal system. In addition, this process may take months or even years to get resolved!
Fortunately, Pennsylvania Statute 42 �8340.2 does provide a level of
civil immunity to a person who uses deadly force in protection of
himself or herself, another person, or property pursuant to other
Pennsylvania law. If you are sued by a criminal who is trying to collect
damages from you resulting from your use of deadly force, and your use
of force is determined to have been justified, you are immune from civil
liability for personal injuries sustained by a perpetrator which were
caused as a result of your use of force. You are also allowed to recover
reasonable expenses, including attorney�s fees, expert witness fees,
court costs and compensation of income if you prevail in a civil action.
A word of caution though, this immunity does not apply to injured
third-parties or property damage.
Pennsylvania�s Stand Your Ground Law
Unlike a number of other states, the phrase �Stand Your Ground� is
found in Pennsylvania statutory law. Pennsylvania law tells us that,
under certain conditions, there is no duty to retreat if faced with a
situation where you have to use force or deadly force to protect
yourself or another. Even if by retreating you could avoid the entire
confrontation, you do not necessarily have to. Pennsylvania Consolidated
Statute Title 18 �505(b)(2.3) states that you have no duty to retreat
and have the right to stand your ground and meet force with force, up to
deadly force, if: (1) your use of force or deadly force is justified
under the law, (2) you believe it is immediately necessary to use force
to protect yourself against death, serious bodily injury, kidnapping, or
sexual intercourse by force or threat, (3) you are in a location where
you have the legal right to be (e.g. you are not trespassing), (4) you
are not in illegal possession of a firearm, (5) you are not engaged in
criminal activity, and (6) your assailant uses or displays a firearm,
replica of a firearm, or other lethal weapon.
Although this statute is classified as a �Stand Your Ground� law, it is
better understood as a �No Duty to Retreat� law. Under these very
limited circumstances, a prosecutor or law enforcement officer cannot
argue that you had a reasonable escape route or that you should have had
to fall back before justifiably using force or deadly force. If you are
facing a criminal charge, qualifying under this statute could mean the
difference between a conviction or not!
Qualifying To Use Force or Deadly Force Is A Prerequisite Of Pennsylvania�s Stand Your Ground Law
While you are not required to escape or retreat before using force or
deadly force, it is imperative that you are justified in using it!
Pennsylvania Consolidated Statute Title 18 �505 states that force
against another person is justifiable in self-protection when the actor
believes that such force is immediately necessary for the purpose of
protecting himself against the use of unlawful force by the other person
on the present occasion. Pennsylvania Consolidated Statute Title 18
�506 states that force against another person in protection of a third
person is justifiable when: (1) you are justified in using force as
above, (2) under the circumstances as you believe them to be, the person
you are protecting would be justified using the same level of
protective force, and (3) you believe that intervention is necessary to
protect the other person.
You are justified in using deadly force if you reasonably believe
that deadly force is immediately necessary to protect against death,
serious bodily injury, kidnapping or sexual intercourse compelled by
force or threat. This includes the use of deadly force in response to
committed or attempted murder, aggravated assault, robbery, carjacking,
and home invasion.
To put it more plainly, you have no duty to retreat and have the right to �stand your ground� and use force if you meet all
of the following conditions. You have the right to use deadly force and
"stand your ground" if you meet both the requirements above for deadly
force and all of the following conditions:
An important restriction is that you may only use such force as is immediately
necessary for the purpose of protection from the use of unlawful force
against you by another. This means both that the threat against you or
another person must be immediate, and that your level of force should
not be higher than necessary to prevent the danger.
- You are in a location where you have a legal right to be;
- You are not in illegal possession of a firearm;
- You are not engaged in a criminal activity, and
- The assailant uses or displays a firearm, replica firearm, or other lethal weapon.
As an example, suppose that you are at baseball game, enjoying a nice
day out at the ballpark with your family, when an intoxicated fan, angry
at the fact that his team just got scored against, begins yelling
obscenities from his seat behind you. When you turn around and politely
ask the man to stop cursing, he gets belligerent, starts threatening to
�whoop� you, and pulls back his fist as if to cold-cock you. In this
case, you may be legally justified in using physical force against the
man, if you believe it is immediately necessary in the circumstances.
However, you would not be justified in later following the man out to
his car in the parking lot and initiating a fight with him over his
insults. Likewise, you would most likely not be justified in pulling out
your firearm and taking a shot at him just because he was belligerent.
Disqualifications From �No Duty to Retreat� Protection
Remember that in order to qualify for protection under the �No Duty to
Retreat Statute,� you must first be legally able to use force or deadly
force. There are a number of situations where your conduct may
disqualify you from being able to use such force. If you fall under one
of the following situations, your use of force or deadly force against
another will not be justified, and therefore, you will not qualify for
protection under the �No Duty to Retreat� statute:
- You will not be justified in using force to resist an arrest which
you know is being made by a police officer, even if the arrest is
ultimately determined to be unlawful.
- Your use of force in response to someone who occupies or possesses
some property (or someone on their behalf) and is using force against
you to protect their property is not justifiable, unless you believe that your use of force is necessary to protect yourself against death or serious bodily injury.
- Deadly force is not justifiable if you provoke someone�s use of
force against yourself with the intent to kill or seriously injure the
other person afterwards with your own use of deadly force in return.
- If you are the initial aggressor, you will not be justified in using deadly force against another person.
As you can see, the Pennsylvania versions of the "Castle Doctrine" and
"Stand Your Ground" laws are extremely complex and cannot be summarized
with simple catch phrases. These topics consume thousands of pages of
legal treatises and continue to be a huge part of many lawyers' careers,
so understandably this article is only a brief overview. We hope,
however, that this newsletter provides you with a better understanding
of both of these legal topics. If you have any questions about these or
other Pennsylvania firearms laws, please do not hesitate to contact us,
and we will be happy to help.
Members and friends please keep in mind that each circumstance may be
different and although this is a general discussion of the law, it
should not be considered legal advice for you or any other situation. If
you have any legal questions make sure you contact a licensed lawyer,
or, members better yet, if you have a question we can get you in contact
with one of our independent firearms program attorneys who will be
happy to answer your firearms questions.
||Featured Seminars: Members, Join Us and Bring a Friend
U.S. Law Shield is proud to host informative Gun Law
Seminars and Workshops all over the State of Pennsylvania. Come join us
as our independent program attorneys and firearms experts separate legal
fact from fiction.
Thursday, November 6, 2014
6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Cost: $5 Members, $10 Non-Members
Sign up here!
Saturday, November 15, 2014
6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Cost: $5 Members, $10 Non-Members
Sign up here!
Thursday, November 20, 2014
6:00 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Cost: $5 Members, $10 Non-Members
Sign up here!
To view a complete list of seminars and workshops in your area, please go to www.GunLawSeminar.com. We hope to see you at one of our next events!
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