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October 2010 Column - Castle Doctrine Guarantees Citizens’ Right to Self Defense

By Dave Hickernell, State Representative
98th Legislative District 

We can barely read the newspaper or watch the television news without seeing stories of murder, in-home assault, kidnapping and rape across our nation.  Our law enforcement officials have a tremendous task protecting citizens and their property, and they do an excellent job.  But, they simply cannot be in all places at all times.  That is why citizens must have the legal right to defend themselves and their families, even it means using lethal force. 

For that reason, I co-sponsored and voted for House Bill 40 which would establish the Castle Doctrine, which derives its name from the phrase “a man’s home is his castle,” as the legal standard for self defense in Pennsylvania.  The Castle Doctrine holds that an attacker or intruder in one’s legally occupied home or vehicle intends to do great bodily harm and protective force – even lethal force – may be used to protect oneself, one’s family, and others in the face of an attack.   

Currently, Pennsylvania law requires that an individual outside his or her home attempt to flee a confrontation before using lethal force in self-defense.  The Castle Doctrine eliminates that requirement if the attacker possesses a weapon.  In other words, you do not have to turn your back on a knife or a gun.  In addition, it offers specific protection against civil liability for the lawful use of force in self defense. 

It is important to note that House Bill 40 is not intended to give anyone the legal right to misuse lethal force.  Rather, it is designed to assure law-abiding citizens they have the explicit legal right to protect themselves and their families if they have a reasonable belief they are in imminent danger.   

In early October, the House Bill 40 passed the House and was sent to the Senate for consideration.  The Senate passed the bill as an amendment to another piece of legislation and it has been sent back to the House for final passage.  Unfortunately, it is unlikely the bill will receive a vote before the end of this legislative session.  If the House does not consider it before the end of the session, I am hopeful the issue will come up again when the new session begins in January. 

Pennsylvanians should have the right to defend their lives and their property when they are threatened.  By passing this bill and making the Castle Doctrine the legal standard for self defense in Pennsylvania, we would guarantee that right. 

Rep. Dave Hickernell
98th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

(717) 367-5525
(717) 684-5525
(717) 783-2076
Contact:  Sean Yeakle
House Republican Public Relations
(717) 787-3406

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