If you have been charged with assault or homicide in Pennsylvania, stop, pause and think. Odds are you weren’t looking for trouble. Trouble came looking for you. You were acting in self-defense. Immediately, stop thinking about what the police and the alleged victim are saying. Next, you need to consult with a skilled criminal lawyer right away. Therefore, you need to call us.
Most importantly, a valid self-defense claim could mean the difference in a dismissal of your case or spending your life behind bars.
Time is of the essence.
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Self-defense is a justification defense. This means you admit to doing the act. You definitely did what the cops said you did. It was not an accident. However, you had to do what you did in order to protect yourself or someone else. In addition, self-defense is also what the courts call an “affirmative defense.” This means that before your trial, you have to raise the defense. Your attorney will tell the prosecution that you are claiming self-defense. Then, it becomes the government’s burden to prove that you did not act in self-defense. In other words, the government must prove this wasn’t self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt.
What you lose with a conviction
There are two basic types of self-defense.
Self-Defense: Use of Ordinary Force, Minor Force, Simple Force, Bodily Force
The first type of self-defense is justified use of force. Self-defense using force is justified when “the actor believes that such force is immediately necessary for the purpose of protecting himself against the use of unlawful force by such other person on the present occasion.” 18 Pa.C.S. § 505.
What does this mean in layman’s terms?
You are justified in using force – a shove or a punch or similar – against another person if you reasonably believe that you must do so in order to protect yourself from them hurting you (or someone else).
- The injury that you are trying to prevent must be immediate. You cannot use self-defense to protect from some event that may occur at some point in the future. It has to be happening right now.
- Your belief that you must use force to protect yourself must also be reasonable. For instance, it is not reasonable to believe that an able bodied 30 year old man must use force to protect himself from a feeble 90 year old woman with a walker, who is inching towards him at a snail’s pace, but threating to punch him. It may be reasonable however, if that same able bodied man is being rushed by a much larger, equally able bodied man, who is already winding up to throw a punch.
Self-Defense: Use of Deadly Force
The second type of self-defense is justified use of deadly force. The underlying circumstances necessary for justified use of deadly force are similar to use of non-deadly force. The actor (meaning the person using self-defense) must reasonably believe that such use of deadly force is immediately necessary to protect against:
- Serious bodily injury
- Kidnapping, or
- Sexual intercourse compelled by force or threat.
These are the only situations in which deadly force is justified. Again, the threat must be immediate and reasonable.
Another twist when it comes to use of deadly force is that you cannot use deadly force if you can avoid the threat completely by retreating to complete safety. The duty to retreat does not exist in certain situations, including if the person you are using force against has or displays a weapon.
Whether or not there was justified use of force and/or justified use of deadly force is very fact dependent. This is where an attorney who understands violence in the real world can play a big part. The circumstances that exist in your case must be evaluated with a fine tooth comb. Moreover, no two cases are alike. Therefore, it takes an experienced and knowledgeable attorney to help you develop your self-defense claim. We need to protect you from a possibility of life behind bars. Contact The McShane Firm today for your free, no-obligation consultation. We’ll discuss your legal options. Obviously, this is the fight for your freedom!
Recommended additional reading on Assault and Self-defense laws in PA
- DOES PENNSYLVANIA LAW ALLOW FOR USE OF FORCE IN SELF-DEFENSE?
- DEFENSE OF OTHERS
- THE CASTLE DOCTRINE AND STAND YOUR GROUND
- CIVIL IMPLICATIONS OF THE JUSTIFIED USE OF DEADLY FORCE
- THE CASTLE DOCTRINE IN PENNSYLVANIA: A REBUTTABLE PRESUMPTION
- Simple Assault Charges
- Aggravated Assault Charges
- Homicide Charges
- Voluntary Manslaughter Charges
- Involuntary Manslaughter Charges
- Terroristic Threats
- Recklessly Endangering Another Person
- Unlawful Restraint
- Resisting Arrest
More Self Defense Information- The latest statistics
According to the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts in 2017, there were 25,878 offenses committed against a person. These are mostly assault and related offenses.
The Most Dangerous
When measured by the number of assault offenses per 1,000 people, the counties that
had the most offenses were:
Counties with the Highest Rate of Assault Offenses
Different Types of
|Type of Offense||PA Statute||Description||Penalty Range|
|Simple Assault||18 § 2701||Attempting to cause or intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury to another.||
|Aggravated Assault||18 § 2702||Attempting to cause serious bodily injury to another. There are many other aggravating factors such as assaulting a law enforcement officer, school teacher or employee.||
|Involuntary Manslaughter||18 § 2504||A person is guilty of involuntary manslaughter when as a direct result of the doing of an unlawful act in a reckless or grossly negligent manner, or the doing of a lawful act in a reckless or grossly negligent manner, he causes the death of another person.||
|Voluntary Manslaughter||18 § 2503||A person who kills an individual without lawful justification commits voluntary manslaughter if at the time of the killing he is acting under a sudden and intense passion resulting from serious provocation.||
|Murder||18 § 2502||A criminal homicide constitutes murder of the first degree when it is committed by an intentional killing.||
An Assault Conviction can Shatter your Life
Beyond the penalties in court, an assault conviction can ruin your life in many ways.
- 1 An assault conviction will stay on your criminal record forever. Future employers, friends, even someone you ask out to dinner can easily use common apps to see your assault conviction.
- 2 Depending on the nature and severity of the crime, you can lose your professional license. This affects people from many professions such as doctors, lawyers, massage therapists and even barbers.
- 3 Many companies have policies not to hire someone who has been convicted of a violent crime.
- 4 If your conviction is a sexual offense, you may have to register as a sex offender which may make it difficult to find a place to live.
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I cannot thank them enough for the outcome of my case. Attorney Tim Barrouk was dealing with a client who was on edge, never been arrested, and didn’t trust him 100% in the beginning, but he came recommended so he was my lawyer. I remember offering to hire a second attorney to help and he reassured me he had it under control. After a while it appeared I made a great choice. He knew the pros & cons of every judge my case was assigned to, he knew when to talk and when to listen in court, he didn’t let me take a bad deal, never pressured me, and responded to every text or call I ever placed to him. Cathi Lee kept me updated on where to be and when to be there. and was always available also. I was facing an Aggravated Assault charge causing serious bodily injury, simple assault, unlawful restraint, and 4 other misdemeanor charges and facing up to 10+ years in state prison. I never denied what I did and there was even video of me doing it. At the end of the day, All my charges were dropped and replaced with one summary offense of disorderly conduct and I was sentenced to pay a $25 fine plus court costs. Tim was always honest, and even told me flat out, these charges fit what you did but your case is triable and we’re gonna work for the best outcome. There were no promises or bs, just facts and business. Thank you Tim and the rest of The McShane Firm for getting me justice and not letting me get lost in the system.