The hearings are today. My friend Dan will be testifying before the House Judiciary Committee in favor of the bill on behalf of PAFOA. Stu Bykofsky of the Daily News reports on the “controversy.” I put that in quotes because I’m actually surprised there hasn’t been more of a media reaction to it. Really, this bill just codifies that which is already practice in most areas of the state, so it shouldn’t be controversial. The problems it’s meant to address are:
- There is technically, in Pennsylvania law, a duty to retreat within the home. There’s no duty to retreat from the home, but technically speaking if someone breaks into your home, you have to retreat, and then only after the invader follows and attacks you can you resort to deadly force. Practically speaking, no jury in Pennsylvania is going to convict a homeowner for shooting a home invader, so this isn’t really a change from practice even if it’s a technical change.
- Pennsylvania law currently has no castle doctrine for vehicles. If someone opens the door and gets in my car, I can’t threaten deadly force or use deadly force until he presents an active threat to me. this bill changes the presumption so that anyone attempting to enter your vehicle uninvited can be considered a deadly threat. Again, prosecution is unlikely because juries tend to be forgiving of law abiding people defending themselves, but it’s the law.
- Pennsylvania currently does not provide civil immunity for people defending themselves, and it’s not uncommon for attackers to sue their victims for defending themselves. This should put a stop to that, and this alone, in my opinion, is reason enough to support the bill.
- We also have a duty to retreat and a duty to surrender in the street. Technically speaking, you are required to flee an attacker if you can do so safely. Doing so safely ends up being in the eyes of jury members who weren’t there, and who will second guess your every move. If you use lethal force on a mugger holding a knife to you and demanding your wallet, you better hope there wasn’t some avenue of retreat you didn’t consider. This will eliminate that type of second guessing. If you’re in a place you have a legal right to be, and are threatened with grave bodily injury or death, you can defend yourself without having to worry about retreat.
Bryan Miller’s hysterics from the Daily News article fail to appreciate what Pennsylvania law and practices already are.
It’s an unwelcome expansion of the Castle Doctrine, he says, “to everywhere – to churches, schools, malls, everywhere, so that someone can claim they were threatened and use lethal force against the person who they claim [threatened them.]
“Our name for it is Judge, Jury and Executioner,” he says. Other critics have called it “Shoot now, ask questions later.”
The right of self-protection already exists, Miller says, but he sees it as limited.
“Walking on a street or going through a shopping mall,” he says, “we are protected by law and by law-enforcement officers,” and that’s preferable to giving lethal force to individuals.
Except that any claim of self-defense in a Court of Law, or before investigators involves a “claim” that they were “threatened.” Â It’s up to prosecutors, and ultimately, if it goes to trial, a jury of your peers, to determine whether or not you acted reasonably and within the law. This proposed Castle Doctrine law does nothing to change the calculus on what level of threat is necessary before deadly force can be resorted to. That standard is still the threat of grave bodily injury or harm, even under this proposal. Bryan Miller seems to be acting as if Pennsylvania has no self-defense justification at all, and that it’s only available to law enforcement. Truth is law enforcement operates under the same self-defense statutes as everyone else.