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Pennsylvania's expanded 'Castle Doctrine' to be subject at trial

Despite the State of Pennsylvania's recent expansion of the traditional Castle Doctrine defense, a Uniontown man will face trial over a shooting he says was in self-defense. The judge overseeing the case rejected the defendant's motion to dismiss the case based on the new version of the doctrine. That likely means the doctrine will be an issue in the accused man's criminal defense.

According to news reports, the shooting arose out of a road rage incident in May. The defendant was driving in North Union Township when another vehicle began tailgating him. The vehicle rammed the defendant's vehicle. When the defendant got out of his car, the man in the second vehicle, 29, began driving toward him, the defendant's attorney said.

Seeking to defend himself from getting hit by the vehicle, the defendant pulled out a gun and fired at the car. The 29-year-old was shot in the hands as he drove away.

The defendant was later arrested and charged with attempted homicide and aggravated assault, among other charges. Police claim that the defendant initiated the confrontation so the shooting was not in self-defense. But in a motion to dismiss, his defense attorney said that the shooting was covered by Pennsylvania's revised Castle Doctrine. The traditional Castle Doctrine basically holds that when a person is in his or her home and feels threatened by an intruder under certain circumstances, he or she may be able to use deadly force to defend him- or herself.

In recent legislation, the state expanded Castle Doctrine protections to vehicles and workplaces. Stand-your-ground defenses also were made available in certain situations.

The judge rejected the motion to dismiss in early December. She did not rule that the defendant's claim of a Castle Doctrine defense was not valid, but said that there was enough of a question regarding the circumstances that it should be up to a jury to decide.

Source: Uniontown Herald-Standard, "Judge rules Castle Doctrine doesn't apply in alleged road rage case," Jennifer Harr, Dec. 10, 2012

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