Allows for the use of deadly force in public for self-defense
Pennsylvania Castle Doctrine passes state House, again
By Eric Boehm | PA Independent
HARRISBURG —A bill to expand the legal use of deadly violence in self-defense passed the state House Tuesday and is headed to the state Senate.
The so-called Castle Doctrine bill was approved by the state House of Representatives with a vote of 164-37.
The bill would allow individuals to use deadly force in self-defense without a requirement to retreat to their own homes first. The provision holds as long as the individual has a right to be in the place where they are and are in immediate danger of bodily harm.
Pennsylvania law allows for the use of deadly force in defense of self within the home or on an individual’s property. The provisions included in H.B. 40 expand that same defense to outside the home, such as in a car. It also would allow the use of deadly force in defense of another person if that person is being threatened with immediate bodily harm.
After passing both chambers of the General Assembly last year, the bill was vetoed by then-Gov. Ed Rendell. Last month, Gov. Tom Corbett said he supports the expansion of the Castle Doctrine contained in H.B 40.
State Rep. Scott Perry, R-York, the lead sponsor of the legislation, said the expanded self-defense law will provide greater safety to individuals in public.
“The current law tips the scales ever so slightly to the advantage of the criminal,” Perry said. “What we want to do is tip the scales, ever so slightly, to the advantage of the law-abiding.”
Perry said the bill does not eliminate the responsibility to demonstrate a reasonable belief that a person was in immediate danger before using deadly force.
“This bill does not endorse unlawful aggression. This is about self-defense,” Perry said.
State Rep. Michael Hanna, D-Clinton, questioned whether an individual — coming to another person’s house to apologize after a heated argument — might be killed because the homeowner did not understand the intentions of the visitor.
State Rep. Steve Santarsiero, D-Bucks — after offering a hypothetical situation involving a stranger forcibly entering a porch but not the house itself — said he was not supporting the bill because it was too full of uncertainties.
“By changing the law, we are in fact encouraging further violence all in the name of expanding protection for victims, which this bill does not do,” Santarsiero said.
Perry said the judicial branch would ultimately be responsible for sorting out the details of those circumstances when they occurred.
“These hypothetical situations could be anything,” Perry said. “The latitude is left for district attorneys to determine if force was justified or not.”
Several Democratic lawmakers said the bill would turn Pennsylvania into a “wild, wild west.”
“We are asking for powers to kill, not maim, but to kill anyone we feel is threatening us,” state Rep. Louise Bishop, D-Philadelphia, said.
In the end, the entire Republican caucus was joined by more than half the Democrats in the state House in passing the bill.
It goes next to the state Senate.
“It is time we shift power from the criminal to the law-abiding citizen,” state Rep. Rick Saccone, R-Allegheny, said.
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