PA State Rep. Tim Mahoney penned a Castle Doctrine for Dummies guide for heraldstandard.com. Bottom line: residents no longer have a duty to retreat from an attack. Of course, Mahoney is a pol. So why say in 12 words what you can say with 107? Afterwards, make the jump to prepare your very own Castle Doctrine checklist. “In a dwelling (including attached porch, deck or patio), residence (defined as any dwelling in which a person resides, temporarily or permanently, or visits as an invited guest) or occupied vehicle: There is now a presumption that any attacker or intruder who is in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering any of these intends to do great bodily harm to any occupants – and also a presumption that anyone inside can use deadly force to protect himself or herself against this attacker or intruder. (The same presumption applies if a person is trying to remove an occupant from any of these places against his or her will.) . . .

However, there are some exceptions to these presumptions. They don’t apply if the person attempting to gain entrance is:

Another resident of (or person who has the right to be in) the dwelling, residence or occupied vehicle.

A parent, grandparent or other guardian removing a child from the dwelling, residence or occupied vehicle; or

A peace officer (such as a police officer) acting in performance of his or her official duties, and the person inside knew, or reasonably should have known, that the person attempting entry was a peace officer.

The person who uses protective deadly force is engaged in criminal activity or is using the dwelling, residence or occupied vehicle to conduct criminal activity.

In any other place where the individual has a right to be: If you are not engaged in a criminal activity and are attacked, you do not have a duty to retreat. You have the right to “stand your ground” and use deadly force – provided the following criteria are all met.

You have a right to be in the place where you are attacked.

You believe the use of force is immediately necessary to protect against death, serious bodily injury, kidnapping or rape.

The person you use deadly force against displays or otherwise uses a firearm or a replica of a firearm, or any other weapon readily capable of lethal use.

You are not illegally in possession of a firearm.

The person you use deadly force against is not someone that you knew was, or should have known was, a peace officer.

Civil liability: There is now protection against civil liability in the lawful use of in self-defense and the defense of others. You can get an award of attorney’s fees and costs, and compensation for loss of income, if:

You use deadly force in compliance with Pennsylvania law; and

You are sued by the perpetrator for injuries incurred as a result of that force; and

You prevail in the lawsuit.

This primer is by no means designed to be used as a substitute for legal advice or opinion. It is presented only to provide constituents with a better idea of the framework of this new law. While the Castle Doctrine greatly expands your rights in defending yourself, it is important to remember there are still some guidelines governing when deadly force is justified.

8 Responses to Time to Prepare Your Castle Doctrine Checklist!

  1. Hi Robert: it is probably worth mentioning that this statute is specific to Pennslyvania, and while other jurisdictions have adopted various incarnations of the basic “Castle Doctrine,” the list of exceptions and qualifications may vary from what is mentioned above. It also goes without saying that retreating is still going to be the best (and least expensive) option if it is available.

  2. In Massachusetts, one’s castle ends at the front door. There’s no duty to retreat inside one’s home, which can attributed to the fact that high-rise dwelling Bostonians objected to jumping out of their windows to escape a home invasion. There’s also no shield law or “loser pays” provision in the event of lawsuits brought by burglars, their estates, or the various legal arsonists who seem to populate the Commonwealth like goose droppings in the park. Pennsylvanians, I envy you.

  3. “A peace officer (such as a police officer) acting in performance of his or her official duties, and the person inside knew, or reasonably should have known, that the person attempting entry was a peace officer.”

    And if it is a warrantless entry??? Either way you’d be screwed.

    • I’d say that in most cases, if the intruder ends up being a uniformed cop, you are probably screwed. Unless he was really drunk or something like that.

  4. The person you use deadly force against displays or otherwise uses a firearm or a replica of a firearm, or any other weapon readily capable of lethal use.

    Nothing about disparity of force? Numbers? Size? So if a 6’5″ 300lb man knocks down the door of a 90lb little old lady, but he is not armed, she has to “retreat”?

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