PA 9.501 JUSTIFICATION: USE OF FORCE/DEADLY FORCE IN SELF-DEFENSE

PA 9.501 JUSTIFICATION: USE OF FORCE/DEADLY FORCE IN SELF-DEFENSE

State: Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Suggested Standard Jury Instructions

9.501 JUSTIFICATION: USE OF FORCE/DEADLY FORCE IN SELF-DEFENSE

IN GENERAL

1. The defendant has raised the issue of whether [he] [she] acted in self-defense when [he] [she] [description of defendant’s conduct]. Self-defense is called “justification” in the law of Pennsylvania. If the defendant’s actions were “justified,” you cannot find [him] [her] guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The issue having been raised, it is the Commonwealth’s burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not act in justifiable self-defense.

Rules When Issue Raised As to Use of Deadly Force

1. The first matter that you must consider in deciding whether the Commonwealth has met its burden in this regard is what kind of force the defendant used in this instance. There are two kinds, deadly and non-deadly. The Commonwealth claims here that deadly force was used by the defendant and it must prove that claim beyond a reasonable doubt.

2. Deadly force is force that, under the circumstances in which it is used, is readily capable of causing death or serious bodily injury. “Serious bodily injury” is bodily injury that creates a substantial risk of death or that causes serious permanent disfigurement or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ. According to this definition, force is not deadly force simply because it happens to kill or seriously injure. For example, a slap in the face that freakishly and unexpectedly leads to death is not deadly force. A defendant uses deadly force when he or she knows that his or her actions, under the circumstances in which he or she commits them, are readily capable of causing death or serious bodily injury.

Rules for Justification When Deadly Force Was Used

1. If the Commonwealth proves to you beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant used deadly force, then to prove that such force was not justifiable in this case, it must prove one of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt [give only those supported by facts of record]:

[a. That the defendant did not reasonably believe that [he] [she] was in immediate danger of death or serious bodily injury [or kidnapping or sexual intercourse compelled by force or threat] from [name of alleged victim] at the time [he] [she] used the force and that, therefore, [his] [her] belief that it was necessary for [him] [her] to use deadly force to protect [himself] [herself] was unreasonable. Put another way, the Commonwealth must prove either: (i) that the defendant did not actually believe [he] [she] was in danger of death or serious bodily injury such that [he] [she] needed to use deadly force to defend [himself] [herself] at that moment; or, (ii) that while the defendant actually believed [he] [she] needed to use such force, [his] [her] belief was unreasonable in light of all the circumstances known to [him] [her].

Keep this in mind: a person is justified in using deadly force against another not only when they are in actual danger of unlawful attack but also when they mistakenly, but reasonably, believe that they are. A person is entitled to estimate the necessity for the force he or she employs under the circumstances as he or she reasonably believes them to be at the time. In the heat of conflict, a person who has been attacked ordinarily has neither time nor composure to evaluate carefully the danger and make nice judgments about exactly how much force is needed to protect himself or herself. Consider the realities of the situation faced by the defendant here when you assess whether the Commonwealth has proved beyond a reasonable doubt either that [he] [she] did not believe [he] [she] was actually in danger of death or serious bodily injury to the extent that [he] [she] needed to use such force in self-defense, or that, while [he] [she] did believe that, [his] [her] belief was unreasonable; [or]

b. That, (i) in the same encounter with [name of alleged victim], the defendant engaged in conduct that demonstrated [his] [her] intent to cause death or serious bodily injury, and (ii) by that conduct, [he] [she] provoked the use of force against [him] [her]. The conduct by the defendant must be of such a nature that it shows it was [his] [her] conscious object to cause death or serious bodily injury to the alleged victim, [name of alleged victim]. Conduct that is not of such a nature does not constitute the kind of provocation upon which the Commonwealth may rely to prove its case. If you find beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant’s acts were of such a nature, you must then ask whether it provoked the similar use of force against [him] [her]. In this assessment, the conduct by the defendant may be the initial provocation of the fight, or it may be an act that continues or escalates it. However, even if the defendant was the initial aggressor, or was the person who escalated the incident to one involving the use of deadly force, if [he] [she] thereafter withdraws in good faith, making it clear that [his] [her] further intentions are peaceable, and the alleged victim pursues [him] [her] and renews the fight, [he] [she] does not forfeit [his] [her] right to claim justifiable self-defense. If, on the other hand, you find beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant provoked the use of force against [him] [her] by engaging in conduct that showed that [he] [she] intended to cause death or serious bodily injury to the alleged victim, you may find that [his] [her] conduct was not justified.

c. That the defendant knew that [he] [she] could avoid the necessity of using deadly force with complete safety by [give only those supported by facts of record]:

[(1) retreating, but that [he] [she] failed to do so. [However, the defendant is not obligated to retreat from [his] [her] own dwelling, that is, any building or structure though movable or temporary, or a portion thereof, including the doorway, that is, at least for the time being, the defendant’s home or place of lodging, unless [he] [she] was the initial aggressor in the incident.] [or] [However, the defendant is not obligated to retreat from [his] [her] place of work unless [he] [she] is attacked there by someone the defendant knows also works in the same place]; [or]

(2) surrendering possession of a thing to a person asserting a claim of right to it, and failing to do so; [or]

(3) complying with a demand that [he] [she] abstain from any action [he] [she] had no duty to make, and failing to do so.]

[The following exception to the third element should be given only where supported by facts of record:]

[However, if the defendant is:

[(a) a public officer using force to perform his or her duties; [or]

(b) someone justified in using force to assist a public officer; [or]

(c) a person justified in using force to make an arrest or prevent an escape,

he or she is not obligated to stop those efforts because of actual or threatened resistance by or on behalf of the person against whom he or she is directing his or her lawful duty.]

2. If the Commonwealth proves one of these elements beyond a reasonable doubt, the actions of the defendant in using deadly force are not justified. If the Commonwealth fails to prove these elements, the defendant’s action was justified and you must find [him] [her] not guilty of the crime of [crime].

Rules for Justification When Non-Deadly Force Was Used

1. If the defendant only used non-deadly force during the incident in question, the Commonwealth may prove that this use of force was not justified if it can show, beyond a reasonable doubt, any of the following elements [give only those supported by facts of record]:

[a. That the defendant did not reasonably believe that it was immediately necessary for [him] [her] to use force to protect [himself] [herself] against the unlawful use of force by [name of alleged victim]. The Commonwealth must prove either: (i) that the defendant did not actually believe [he] [she] was in danger of becoming the victim of unlawful force such that [he] [she] needed to use force to defend [himself] [herself] at the moment [he] [she] used it; or, (ii) that while the defendant actually believed [he] [she] needed to use such force, [his] [her] belief was unreasonable in light of all the circumstances known to [him] [her].

Keep this in mind: a person is justified in using force against another not only when they are in actual danger of unlawful attack but also when they mistakenly, but reasonably, believe that they are. A person is entitled to estimate the necessity for the force he or she employs under the circumstances as he or she reasonably believes them to be at the time. In the heat of conflict, a person who has been attacked ordinarily has neither time nor composure to evaluate carefully the danger and make nice judgments about exactly how much force is needed to protect himself or herself. Consider the realities of the situation faced by the defendant here when you assess whether the Commonwealth has proved beyond a reasonable doubt either that he or she did not believe he or she was actually in danger of unlawful force to the extent that he or she needed to use such force in self-defense, or that, while he or she did believe that, his or her belief was unreasonable. Unlawful force means any form of force, including confinement, that is employed without the consent of the person against whom it is directed where its use would constitute an offense or actionable tort.]

[b. That, (i) in the same encounter with [name of alleged victim], the defendant engaged in conduct that demonstrated [his] [her] intent to use unlawful force against the alleged victim, and, (ii) by that conduct, [he] [she] provoked the use of force against [himself] [herself]. Conduct that is not itself the unlawful use of force does not constitute the kind of provocation upon which the Commonwealth may rely to prove its case. If you find beyond a reasonable doubt that it is of such a nature, you must then ask whether it provoked the similar use of force against [him] [her]. In this assessment, the conduct by the defendant may be the initial provocation of the fight, or it may be an act that continues or escalates it. However, even if the defendant was the initial aggressor, or was the person who escalated the incident to one involving the use of unlawful force, if [he] [she] thereafter withdraws in good faith, making it clear that [his] [her] further intentions are peaceable, and the alleged victim pursues [him] [her] and renews the fight, [he] [she] does not forfeit [his] [her] right to claim justifiable self-defense. If, on the other hand, you find beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant provoked the use of force against [himself] [herself] by engaging in conduct that showed that [he] [she] intended to cause unlawful force to the alleged victim, you may find that [his] [her] conduct was not justified.]

Note that a defendant who has used only non-deadly force has no duty to [retreat from the incident] [or] [surrender possession of a thing] [do or not do any act he or she has no legal duty to do or refrain from doing], as long as he or she has not provoked the unlawful use of force, as I have explained that matter above.

2. Unless the Commonwealth proves one of these two elements, the use of non-deadly force by the defendant is justified and you must find [him] [her] not guilty of the offense of [offense]. If the Commonwealth does prove one of the elements beyond a reasonable doubt, the actions of the defendant are not justified.

Rules Regarding Use of Force in Specific Situations

[To be used only where made applicable by facts of record:]

1. The Commonwealth may also prove that the use of force by the defendant was not justified if it proves beyond a reasonable doubt:

a. That the defendant used force to resist an arrest when the defendant knows that the arrest is being made by a peace officer, whether or not the arrest is lawful. However, a defendant does not forfeit his or her right to claim that his or her actions were justified if he or she reasonably believed that he or she was protecting himself or herself against unlawful and deadly force by the officer. To prove this element, then, the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not believe that the arresting officer was using unlawful and deadly force against [him] [her] or, if the defendant did believe that, [his] [her] belief was unreasonable.

b. That the defendant used force to resist force used by the occupier [or possessor of property] [or their agent], where the defendant knew that the person they were resisting was acting under a claim of right to the property, and that [his] [her] resistance was not authorized by law. A defendant is authorized to use force in such a circumstance if (i) he or she is a public officer [or a person assisting a public officer] performing his or her duties, or a person making or assisting in a lawful arrest; (ii) he or she has been unlawfully dispossessed of the property and is making a justified re-entry of it under the law; or (iii) he or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to protect himself or herself from deadly force by another.

Special Rule Regarding Confinement as Justified Force

[To be used only where made applicable by facts of record:]

There is one other way in which the Commonwealth may seek to prove that the defendant’s use of confinement was not a justified use of force in this case. The Commonwealth would have to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant failed to take all reasonable measures to end the alleged victim’s confinement as soon as the defendant knew [he] [she] could do so in complete safety. Of course, if the alleged victim had been arrested for some offense and confined according to law, the defendant would not be responsible for such period of confinement.

By | 2016-04-06T14:31:43+00:00 April 6th, 2016|Comments Off on PA 9.501 JUSTIFICATION: USE OF FORCE/DEADLY FORCE IN SELF-DEFENSE