Someone directly threatened you either with their words or their actions, and you fought back to defend yourself. However, now you find yourself facing assault allegations. The state claims you acted with malicious intent when your actions are not intended to harm someone but rather to protect yourself.
Under Pennsylvania law, your ability to raise a self-defense claim depends on whether the circumstances align with common law standards and other rules set by the Pennsylvania criminal courts. In some cases, the reason you face charges despite claiming self-defense will be because of specific actions you took during the interaction with the other party.
Do you have a duty to retreat or to leave a situation before using force?
How the duty to retreat works
In a scenario where you are not the aggressor and you are in a place where you have the lawful right to be during an interaction with another person, you do not have to try to leave or even back up to the wall before using force to defend yourself.
The law in Pennsylvania used to require that you try to leave the situation before you use physical force to defend yourself unless you were in your own home. The state does not impose a duty to retreat when someone illegally enters your home and attacks you. However, if you are at a park or a restaurant when the altercation occurs, you once had to make an attempt to leave the situation if possible before using force.
Thankfully, the law has since changed. People attempting to leave a dangerous situation can end up getting hurt themselves or failing to act to protect other people out of fear of the consequences they might face. You do not need to put yourself or other people at risk before acting in self-defense. You can stand your ground when someone poses a credible threat to your immediate safety.