There are strict laws surrounding domestic violence in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Victims of violent acts or crimes waged by family members or within a household typically seek a restraining order. These orders force the aggressor, or defendant, from harming or harassing a victim or plaintiff. When the defendant violates a restraining order and threatens the plaintiff in Pennsylvania, plaintiffs may have the right to use reasonable force to defend themselves.
However, Pennsylvania has specific laws regarding using deadly force for self-protection. You may face criminal charges and jail time if you are not justified in using it.
Violations of a Restraining Order
Restraining orders are court orders that protect victims of domestic violence by prohibiting aggressors from either contacting or harassing the plaintiff or from coming within a certain distance of the victim.
Restraining orders may also prohibit the defendant from actions such as:
- Going to locations where the plaintiff might be, such as their place of work or school
- Contacting or trying to contact the plaintiff's family or employer
- Owning or possessing firearms
If someone violates the terms of a restraining order or is accused of doing so, they face arrest and possible contempt charges, and jail time.
Legal Rights to Self Defense
Pennsylvania is one of several states that follow "stand your ground" laws that provide protection in situations where someone is violating a restraining order. Pennsylvania's law states that you can resort to using deadly force if someone unlawfully enters their home, place of work, or occupied vehicle so long as you are not the aggressor.
Under Pennsylvania statute Section 505-Title 18, to use force in self-protection in these circumstances, you must believe the following:
- The other person is trying to harm you physically with intent to kill, cause serious bodily injury, kidnap, or sexually violate you.
- Immediate action is needed to prevent the other person from harming you
- The force the other person is taking against you is unlawful and you cannot resist it on your own
- The use of force was reasonable and proportionate to the level of threat perceived
Deadly force is also justified when protecting another person if you believe the person would be justified in using the same force to protect themselves and you believe your help is necessary to protect them against the aggressor.
If a court finds that you used deadly force unjustly, you could face criminal charges and jail time.
Protecting Yourself When Someone Violates a Restraining Order
Restraining orders are designed to protect victims of domestic violence from harm. When someone violates a restraining order and takes actions that threaten the plaintiff, the plaintiff may have grounds to use force to defend themselves, but only if certain criteria are met.