Legal Updates

Getting To Not Guilty Part 2: The Justification Defense

The Pennsylvania Crimes Code addresses the defense of Justification in Chapter 5, General Principles of Justification. According to the Code, the justification generally is conduct which the actor believes is necessary to avoid a harm or evil to himself or another.  The most common justification defenses are:

  • Use of force in self protection
  • Use of force for the protection of other persons
  • Use of force for the protection of property
  • Use of force in law enforcement
  • Use of force by persons with special responsibility for care, discipline, or safety of others

The justification defense does not apply where the actor brings about the situation requiring the justification by his own actions.  The basic idea behind justification defense is that people should only be punished for wrongful deeds. The theory recognizes that sometimes people are placed in the unenviable position of choosing between the lesser of two evils.  The law acknowledges that if an individual is placed in such a situation, he must be able to act without fearing the legal implications of his conduct.  For example, if you are walking down the street with your brother, and a gang of robbers attacks your brother, you may be justified in using force to defend him.  While the punches you throw to defend your brother may be considered assault in other circumstances, the law makes space for those situations where it may be appropriate for an individual to take matters into their own hands.  Contact the Law Office of Mark D. Copoulos to evaluate whether a justification defense may be applicable to fighting your criminal charges.