Can You Shoot a Thief? | Pennsylvania (2023)

2022-02-08T18:43:00-06:00March 30th, 2019|Tags: Defending Property, Pennsylvania, Videos|31 Comments

One of the questions that we get quite frequently is, “How far can I go under the law to defend my property?” Everyone works hard, and nothing is worse than a thief because they look to take something that is not theirs, that they didn’t work for, and make it theirs. As angry as you are, the law in Pennsylvania is very clear: you CANNOT use deadly force to defend your property.

An example would be that you come home, park in your exterior driveway, and see some scumbag and his friend ripping off your new widescreen TV. You know, the one that you really saved up for and you didn’t put on the credit card, but you actually paid off. Man, you’re going to be mad, but you cannot shoot them. It’s not the death penalty in Pennsylvania. That would be very, very, very bad for you.

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Castle Doctrine in PA

Now, there is confounding information that should be considered in the arena of defending your property. Your home is your property, and nothing is more private than one’s house I would suggest. This is where the Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground come into play. As it applies to property, it’s very simple: if someone is trying to break and enter, or in other words, attempting to get inside your house, then the Castle Doctrine emerges.

The Castle Doctrine is simple.

There’s absolutely no duty to retreat in one’s home. Your home is your castle. If an uninvited person attempts to come into your home, then you’re presumed to act reasonably if you use lethal deadly force against them.

Stand Your Ground Law in PA

Stand Your Ground differs. When it comes to Stand Your Ground, it generally applies outside of the home.

There is a difference when it comes to the person that is perpetrating the crime, between burglary, robbery, and theft. So, theft, in Pennsylvania, is taking something from another person, without their consent, with the intent to permanently deprive them of the property. And we have different types of theft. Theft by receiving stolen property. Theft by unlawful taking. Theft by failing to give the required disposition. And it all basically comes down to taking something with the permanent intent to deprive, (meaning, taking away) someone of their belongings forever.

Robbery is when you use either force or the threat of force in the course of committing a theft. If someone comes inside your house without permission and is stealing stuff, that’s not a robbery. That is what we call a burglary.

Burglary in Pennsylvania is when anyone enters a building or occupied structure with the intent to commit a crime. If someone comes into your house with the intent of beating you up, it’s a burglary. Because the crime is simple assault, beating you up, and coming into the house without permission, that would be the difference between it becoming a burglary or a simple assault. Burglary is not just taking stuff from your house. It’s any crime that is committed in another person’s property where you’re not supposed to be.

Use of deadly force in PA

The last question really dovetails on what we said before. Can you use deadly force to protect yourself from simple trespassers on land? Well, absolutely not. Not in Pennsylvania.

(Video) Employee Gets Charged After Shooting Thief

Simple trespass is against the law. Put up those trespassing signs, videotape them, turn them into the police, and they’ll get the citation in the mail. They’ll have to pay a fine. But, it does not equal the death penalty in Pennsylvania. You can never, ever, shoot someone if they’re merely a simple trespasser on land.

If you have any other questions about any of these concepts that we talked about in the video, pleasecallU.S. LawShield and ask to speak to an Independent Program Attorney.


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  1. Paul England04/04/2019 at 4:12 pm - Reply

    I expect most thieves would want to leave when the resident arrives home. What force if any is permitted to detain a thief? Is all I can lawfully do call 911 and be a good witness for the police of the thief escaping with or without my property?

  2. Phil Ferreira04/05/2019 at 7:28 am - Reply

    This is a confusing video. It does not make clear when using deadly force against a burglar would be justified by the ‘Castle law’.

    (Video) Man accused of shooting catalytic converter thief, dragging body behind truck in Lakewood
  3. Ray Oros04/06/2019 at 7:01 am - Reply

    This video seems to cancel out the Castle Doctrine . Very confusing .

  4. Bob K04/11/2019 at 4:22 pm - Reply

    How about standing your ground when being car jacked ?

    • Nate Thompson11/27/2020 at 9:32 pm - Reply

      That’s what I was wondering also

  5. Timothy Fava07/20/2020 at 8:54 pm - Reply

    STAND YOUR GROUND QUESTION. I live in Easton, PA in the mountains of Williams township. In the last 3 weeks BLM has caused problems in Philly, Allentown and Palmerston. It is only a matter of time that they come here. My neighbors and me live 400+ ft off the road nice and secluded. Understanding I cant shoot if they come on the property, But if they force my door open or break the windows to gain access to my house. Can I Disable them with a pellet gun then tie them up and wait for the Belfast state police to show up? Or I leave what they have in their hand that is causing destruction and Shoot to Kill with the 410 Shotgun Or do I shoot to Disable with the same?
    I await your response.
    Thank you

    • Bill08/14/2020 at 10:09 pm - Reply

      The protections afforded by Pennsylvania’s Castle Doctrine through presumptions are set forth in PA ST 18 Pa.C.S. § 505…….Therefore, under the following scenarios, the law will presume that use of deadly force was reasonable:

      Somebody is IN THE PROCESS of unlawfully and forcefully entering your dwelling, residence or car (provided you’re in the car);
      Somebody HAS unlawfully and forcefully entered your dwelling, residence or car (provided you’re in the car); or
      Somebody IS OR IS ATTEMPTING to unlawfully and forcefully remove you or somebody else —against the will of the individual being removed— from your dwelling, residence or car (If they’re removing you or trying to, it’s safe to say you’re in the car).

      • Dame09/16/2020 at 4:14 pm - Reply

        I had 4 men with mask on try to break into my apartment at 3:25 Am last night, i had my gun pointing at the door loaded 1 in the chamber ready incase they kicked the door down. I live with my girlfriend. So your telling me if they were to kick my door down I’m not allowed to shoot them ? When everything i ever worked for is in my home ?

      • Christine Hydro12/25/2021 at 12:43 pm - Reply

        Yes you can shoot them beat them with a baseball bat or do whatever you want if they enter your home or vehicle if your in it without permission if someone either breaks into your home or enters without permission you have every right to protect yourself and your family. It’s simple they are a threat obviously and defending yourself and your family against a presumed threat is absolutely your right. Now if they are outside of your home that’s a completely different story so make sure to do whatever you can to keep their lowlife ass there because once they leave your home you could be the one facing charges. Also it doesn’t hurt to video tape everything. If you do shoot or harm someone who breaks into your residence as I stated keep them there by whatever means and call the authorities and 911, and as I said record everything so you have proof of everything. Just in case the police don’t do thier jobs or try to infringe upon your rights or charge you somehow then you have the extra backup you need. Again you can not be charged for harming someone or even killing them once unlawfully inside your home.

    • Jar10/26/2020 at 7:36 pm - Reply

      Why the people trying coming into you home gotta be black people tho?

      • John Bilger12/21/2020 at 3:19 pm - Reply

        When did they say the intruder was black? Offended? Gee…all this racist shit. Like no wonder this countries so fucked up

        • Dyl06/16/2021 at 7:00 am - Reply

          I think because when the mentioned the fraud group blm …
          So on another note if someone of ANY color breaks into my apt and is walking around while me and my son are sleeping my husband cannot shoot him ?!!

          (Video) SHOOT IF YOU CAN - Pennsylvania Late Season Tradition
      • Taz02/15/2021 at 12:17 am - Reply

        U sound dumb

    • Tony03/28/2021 at 12:22 am - Reply

      That’s exactly how I feel about those other 52 hate groups in PA. Or are we down to 48 ?

    • Anita Farver04/29/2022 at 7:25 pm - Reply

      Well this didn’t age well 🤣

  6. Spawn08/07/2020 at 9:22 pm - Reply

    Why are laws so stupid, it seems that the only time you can fire your weapon in self defense is if your in the process of being killed, America was founded upon defending you home with weapons by any means, its called the wild west. Nowadays they want to enslave us so much that we cannot defend ourselves unless we are in the process of dying, Fuck that, if anyone enters your house or comes onto your property, by the laws and rights given to us by our founding fathers you ARE allowed to shoot someone. Nobody should ever try to commit a crime if they do they have already given you consent to shoot them. Dont listen to the slavery gun laws of today. If you have a gun and someone tries to take from you or go onto your property as a human being you are allowed to use lethal force. If someone wishes to commit a crime they have already decided their life isnt worth living.

    • mary steele08/21/2020 at 6:29 pm - Reply

      have fun going to jail for murder then :)

      • Chuck09/29/2020 at 1:43 pm - Reply

        Rather go to jail than the funeral home.

    • Don01/29/2021 at 2:37 am - Reply

      Spawn, you are incorrect on so many levels. e.g The Bill of Rights, states: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” This affords you the right to bear arms yes, but in a “well regulated militia” which means as a troop in a battalion, not as a renegade. Also, every state has differing laws and definition regarding shooting someone and under certain circumstances. It’s uneducated people such as yourself who go to prison due to self interpretation and disregard for laws.

      • Chris03/12/2021 at 3:48 pm - Reply

        The militia are the people themselves, not some kind of military unit. That is a fallacy.

        • Marvin06/22/2021 at 9:49 pm - Reply

          The meaning of “regulated” in the 18th century was “practiced,” “equipped,” and “maintained.” … not what it means today; and “militia” is defined by the Federalist Papers as “every armed citizen.”

  7. Bill08/14/2020 at 9:59 pm - Reply

    (Video) Gas station clerk fatally shoots thief during armed robbery, authorities say

    Pennsylvania Statutes Title 18 Pa.C.S.A. Crimes and Offenses § 507. Use of force for the protection of property.
    Use of force justifiable for protection of property.–The use of force upon or toward the person of another is justifiable when the actor believes that such force is immediately necessary:(1) to prevent or terminate an unlawful entry or other trespass upon land or a trespass against or the unlawful carrying away of tangible movable property, if such land or movable property is, or is believed by the actor to be, in his possession or in the possession of another person for whose protection he acts;  or………….cont.

  8. Bill08/14/2020 at 10:30 pm - Reply

    People, research PA stand your ground and castle doctrine laws. A lot has changed since 2011 and benefits legal occupants. There are still things you have to adhere to, such as these laws won’t work for you if you’re committing a crime at the time. The laws also mention about being shielded from civil suits if your defending yourself. I’m not a lawyer, I just copy and paste. Do your research. Start with PA House Bill 40.

    • Jeff06/08/2021 at 12:03 am - Reply

      You’ll have to read deeper into that law. It’s referencing the use of force, not DEADLY force. Meaning you can rough the thief up but can’t cause serious bodily harm or death. The law stipulates the use of a device saying only if the it’s not designed to be fatal or cause serious bodily harm. So you wouldn’t be able to use a deadly weapon on a thief. If it was a robbery with a deadly weapon, however, then you have the right to use deadly force.

  9. Shawn09/02/2020 at 6:18 pm - Reply

    Is squatting in PA considered a crime? My roommate is taking advantage of the protections afforded to renters during COVID-19, which in turn is aggravating my depression and anxiety. The courts won’t see the eviction case, and therefor are neglecting to make reasonable accommodations for my disabilities. I am legally certified as disabled by my doctors, and they even put me out on FMLA leave from work back in May due to the stress this has caused me. It’s been more than twice the time that a normal eviction takes because the courts just don’t care about my rights under the Americans with Disabilities act of 1990, Title II: State and Local Government Activities.

    So all of this stress and anxiety has compounded over nearly 7 months. I’m gonna snap. Nobody else is protecting me, and as a matter of fact they are using COVID-19 as an excuse to deny me my rights. I told my roommate that it’s impacting my health and that I will remove him myself on October 1st if he is still a squatter here. He now walks around with a bamboo pipe as a weapon. As if I’m gonna he intimidated by a hollow piece of wood. You get hit harder by hockey sticks when you play hockey. Hopefully he is is prepared for what would come next. You can tell by how I’m speaking now that I’m at my wits end. Because we rent rooms I’m the same house, I’m not isolated from his eviction the way tenants in separate apartments would be. I am stressed about this 24 hours a day, and knowing myself and how I’m feeling, I’m gonna snap soon…been warning people for months that this is escalating inside. So what rights do I have in PA considering my position? People can only take so much.

  10. bill09/09/2020 at 11:03 pm - Reply

    even if you feel you were justified defending yourself with a firearm DO NOT TALK TO LAW ENFORCEMENT without an attorney present not even about the weather or the color of your shoes respectfully inform the officers involved you want an attorney present for any questioning even if they suggest that probably isn’t necessary DO NOT ANSWER QUESTIONS be polite and respectful and cooperate AND INSIST ON AN ATTORNEY

  11. Luke Steven Huston09/16/2020 at 9:25 pm - Reply

    With everything happening today? What if they set my car or house on fire?

    • Eileen Vavra04/01/2021 at 9:13 pm - Reply

      I want to know the answer to that question too.

  12. Carl07/02/2021 at 6:05 pm - Reply

    Hell if someone is breaking into your house it’s not up to you to decide what they’re doing or trying to do, but god help them if my family is they’re and we feel threatened because I’m sure as hell not going to bake them any cookies.

  13. Fred Jenkins11/18/2021 at 7:33 pm - Reply

    The comments section here shows how we are in the mess. The section of law regarding “Castle Doctrine” in the actual article as well as in the comments section CLEARLY STATES that the “use of deadly force” IS CONSIDERED REASONABLE in the following instances. 1 someone IS ACTIVELY entering your home, dwelling or vehicle with you in it. 2 someone HAS ALREADY entered your home, dwelling or vehicle. 3 someone is ACTIVELY trying to REMOVE you or someone else INSIDE your home, dwelling or vehicle against your or the other person’s will.

    All of the comments seem to express exasperation of the EXACT OPPOSITE interpretation of what is stated, and what the law actually is.

  14. Juan04/06/2022 at 10:00 pm - Reply

    This is why they steal our cars and break into our homes! Nothing we can do about it legally. Go to jail for protecting your own property! Smh!

    (Video) Ouch! Booby trap explodes on car thief

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