PA 9.503 JUSTIFICATION: DEFENSE OF PROPERTY (CASTLE DOCTRINE)

PA 9.503 JUSTIFICATION: DEFENSE OF PROPERTY (CASTLE DOCTRINE)

State: Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Suggested Standard Jury Instructions

9.503 JUSTIFICATION: DEFENSE OF PROPERTY (CASTLE DOCTRINE)

(Effective for cases arising subsequent to August 27, 2011)

In General

1. The defendant has raised the issue of whether [he] [she] acted to lawfully protect property when [he] [she] [describe defendant’s conduct]. Such a 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 defense of property.

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 while the defendant may claim otherwise, [he] [she] did not believe that someone had unlawfully entered [his] [her] dwelling; [or]

b. That while the defendant may claim otherwise, [he] [she] did not believe that only deadly force would be adequate to stop the person[s] who unlawfully entered [his] [her] dwelling.]

However, even if the Commonwealth proves one of these elements, they still must also prove [one of] the following:

[a. That, to the extent that the defendant used deadly force against [name of alleged victim], a person who was trying to dispossess [him] [her] of [his] [her] dwelling, that is, to put [him] [her] out of the dwelling permanently, [name of alleged victim] did not have a claim of right to the possession of the property. [or]

b. That the deadly force the defendant used was not needed to prevent the commission of a felony by [name of alleged victim] in the dwelling.]

Rules When Non-Deadly Force is Used To Prevent Entry on Defendant’s
Land or Prevent Removal of Defendant’s Tangible Property

1. To prove that the defendant’s use of force in this circumstance was not justified, the Commonwealth must prove [one of] the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

[a. That the defendant did not reasonably believe that [his] [her] use of force was immediately necessary to:

[(1) prevent or bring to an end an unlawful entry or trespass on land [he] [she] believes to be in [his] [her] possession or in the possession of another person in whose interests [he] [she] is acting; [or]

(2) prevent or bring to an end the unlawful carrying away of tangible, movable property that [he] [she] believes to be in [his] [her] possession or in the possession of another person in whose interests [he] [she] is acting.]

[or]

[b. That the defendant could have asked the person [he] [she] used the force against to stop interfering with [his] [her] property before using the force, and:

[(1) such a request would not have been useless; [or]

(2) making such a request would not have been dangerous to the defendant or another person; [or]

(3) substantial harm would not have been done to the physical condition of the property before the request could have been made effectively.]

[or]

c. That the defendant knew that by using force to keep [name of alleged victim] out of [his] [her] property or remove [him] [her] from it, [he] [she] would be exposing [name of alleged victim] to substantial danger of serious bodily injury.

d. That even if the defendant believed the actions of the person against whom [he] [she] used the force to be unlawful, that person was trying to enter land of which [he] [she] had actually been dispossessed and [his] [her] entry was justified under the following principle: [give rules in next centered heading below].

e. That even if the defendant believed the actions of the person against whom [he] she] used the force to be unlawful, that person was trying to recapture property that had been taken from [him] [her] and [his] [her] actions were justified under the following principle: [give rules in next centered heading below].

f. That the defendant used a device to protect [his] [her] property that:

[(1) caused or created a substantial risk of causing death or serious bodily injury;
[or]

(2) was, under the circumstances known to the defendant, unreasonable to protect the property from trespass or entry; [or]

(3) was not one customarily used for such a purpose; [or]

(4) the defendant did not use reasonable care to make known to probable intruders that it was used.]

Rules When Non-Deadly Force is Used By Defendant To 
Re-Enter Land or Re-Take
Tangible Property

1. To prove that the defendant’s use of force in this circumstance was not justified, the Commonwealth must prove [one of] the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

[a. That the defendant did not reasonably believe that [his] [her] use of force was necessary to:

[(1) [enter] [re-enter] land of which [he] [she] [someone under whose authority [he] [she] acts] was unlawfully dispossessed; [or]

(2) retake tangible, movable property [he] [she] [someone under whose authority [he] [she] acts] was entitled to possess.]

b. That the defendant did not use the force immediately or in fresh pursuit after being dispossessed of the property.

c. That the defendant believed that the person [he] [she] used the force against had a claim of right to the property.

d. That, where the defendant was dispossessed of land, [he] [she] did not believe that the matter was so urgent that [he] [she] could not postpone the re-entry until [he] [she] obtained a court order without suffering an exceptional hardship.

e. That the defendant could have asked the person [he] [she] used the force against to stop interfering with [his] [her] property before using the force, and:

[(1) such a request would not have been useless; [or]

(2) making such a request would not have been dangerous to the defendant or another person; [or]

(3) substantial harm would not have been done to the physical condition of the property before the request could have been made effectively.]]

Rules When Confinement is Used To Defend Property

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 with safety to the property. 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.

General Rule As To Defendant’s Reasonable Belief

1. In various instructions I have given you on the issue of justification, I have told you that the Commonwealth may seek to prove that the defendant was not justified by proving that [he] [she] did not reasonably believe something upon which [he] [she] based [his] [her] actions.

2. To prove that the defendant did not reasonably believe something, the Commonwealth may prove either that:

[a. the defendant did not actually believe it; [or]

b. while the defendant believed it, [his] [her] belief was unreasonable in light of the circumstances known to [him] [her].

3. Keep this in mind: a person is justified in using force not only when they are in an actual situation when they would be justified in doing so 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 whose property has been taken ordinarily has neither time nor composure to evaluate carefully the danger and make nice judgments about exactly how much force is needed to protect the property. 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 justified in using the force under the circumstances, or that, while [he] [she] did believe that, [his] [her] belief was unreasonable.

By | 2016-04-06T19:22:00+00:00 April 6th, 2016|Comments Off on PA 9.503 JUSTIFICATION: DEFENSE OF PROPERTY (CASTLE DOCTRINE)