Acting in Self-Defense: What is Legal Force?

February 4, 2020

Acting in Self-Defense: What is Legal Force?

Imagine this. You’ve been in an abusive relationship for years with no escape in sight. Even with a protection from abuse order in use, he still continues to show up. When a fight starts over text, he shows up to your home, threatening your life. 

You fire a weapon. He’s gone. In an act of self-defense by a victim of domestic abuse, you should be protected under the law. But instead, you’re behind bars. 

This is the all too real case of LeToya Ramseure who killed her abusive ex in self-defense. But because the court neglected the fact she was a victim, she spent a year in jail. 

And she isn’t alone. One in four women and one in seven men aged 18 and older in the United States have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

While she has had the charges dismissed and she’s free, she now has lost another year of her life behind actual bars instead of the confinement she had in her relationship.

When can you claim self-defense and use legal force in Pennsylvania?

Self-defense laws can be complicated. While you do have the right to use legal force in some cases, you need to know what your rights are. 

  • Use of force in self-protection: Deadly force can be used when you reasonably believe that the force is necessary in order to protect yourself against the unlawful use of force including death, serious bodily injury, kidnapping or nonconsensual sexual intercourse.
  • Use of legal force for the protection of other persons: Deadly force is justified when protecting others when you reasonably believe that your help is necessary to protect the other person; that the person you are trying to protect would be justified in using such force; and if you were in the same position, you would use the same force to protect yourself. 

The Castle Doctrine also allows for specific self-defense measures when it comes to the protection of your home. The understanding is that one is justified in the use of deadly force to protect one’s home and its inhabitants from intruders, without being obliged to retreat.

Self-defense laws can be complicated from situation to situation. That’s why you need a trusted criminal defense attorney who can represent you in court. 

Contact Us

The Scranton criminal lawyers at Mazzoni Karam Petorak & Valvano have practiced criminal defense law for a number of decades. Our office can help you if you are accused of a violent crime. Contact us to schedule an appointment.

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