What Defenses Against Criminal Charges are there in Pennsylvania?

What Defenses Against Criminal Charges are there in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, if charged with a crime, you have a multitude of defenses you may raise before or at trial to gain a not guilty verdict.  Defenses may be Self-Defense, Insanity, or Police Misconduct.  So: What Defenses Against Criminal Charges are there in Pennsylvania?

Categories of Criminal Defenses in Pennsylvania 

  • Alibi – It Was No Me! 
  • Justification – I did it but should be forgiven and not punished as my action prevented a more significant harm. 
  • Excuse – I did it, but due to a personal condition or circumstance, I should not be held accountable. 
  • Procedural – I probably did it, but the government acted so terribly they should be punished, not me.

Alibi Defense in Pennsylvania

An Alibi is the Contention by the Defendant that he/she was so distant in time and place from the crime scene and time of the occurrence that his/her participation in the crime was impossible. 

Different from other Defenses in that it argues that Defendant is COMPLETELY INNOCENT! 

Burden is on Defendant to prove through actual tangible evidence the impossibility of them committing the crime.  Examples are: 

– Credible Testimony (boyfriend, girlfriend, mother do not cut it)

– Documentation (timecard, video, photo, plane ticket, receipt, EZ Pass)

PA Rule of Crim Pro 567: Must give notice to the prosecution or waive right to use at trial 

Excuse and Justification Defenses in Pennsylvania 

Age/Infancy – defendant, is too young to be held responsible (PA is under the age of 10)

Intoxication – can only be used if the intoxication was involuntary (spiked drink)

Unconsciousness – cannot be held responsible for anything done while unconscious (sleepwalking)

Duress – committed the crime due to threat of harm to oneself or another person; can never be used as a defense for murder or rape no matter the circumstances of the threat; threat must be immediate and apparent that it can be carried out; cannot involve a threat to property, only threat to a person

Necessity – the harm caused outweighed the harm of not acting (hiking in the mountains and are either threatened by a dangerous animal or severe storm, so you break into someone’s empty cabin; it was necessary for you to trespass)

Consent – person alleging harm consented to the harm through actions or words (football, hockey, and rugby – in those sports the act of participation is consent to assault; or EMT/Doctor taking measures to save your life)

Self-Defense and Defense of Others – see explanation here

Entrapment – defendant would not have committed crime if not for law enforcement manufacturing the situation

Prosecutorial Misconduct – the District Attorney withheld evidence of possible innocence or knowingly introduced false Testimony or evidence

Selective Prosecution – District Attorney’s decisions in who to prosecute shows a manifest presence of discrimination against minority defendants

Double Jeopardy – cannot be prosecuted for the same crime twice if found not guilty after a trial

Denial of a Speedy Trial – District Attorney fails to bring the case to trial within 180 days of arrest if the Defendant is incarcerated, or within one year of arrest if the Defendant is out on bail

Statute of Limitations Violations – persons become immune from prosecution for certain crimes after a specific amount of time has passed (Priest Sex Abuse Scandal and Bill Cosby; ex. Burglary, Arson, Kidnapping, and Robbery 5 years; Rape 12 years)

De Minimis Infraction – the act was so customary or in no way harmful that prosecution is not warranted

Insanity – Pennsylvania uses the M’Naghten Rule which states one is not responsible for a crime if at the time of the crime the person had a mental illness rendering them incapable of distinguishing between right and wrong; must be based on an expert medical opinion; mental illness alone is not enough, must prove the form of mental illness present rose to the level of the legal term insane; i.e., One can be Mentally Ill, but sane; One cannot be Insane and not mentally ill – other forms like insanity, temporary insanity; irresistible impulse

Provocation – the person was pushed to the brink and took action (bullying situation, theory of you can only kick a dog so many times)

Syndromes and Disorders – Battered Woman Syndrome; Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – the argument is a mix of self-defense, necessity, and insanity

The above is not an exhaustive list, but generally answers the question: What Defenses Against Criminal Charges are there in Pennsylvania?   

How Can Paul S. Peters III, Esq. Help 

If you are charged with a crime in Pennsylvania and believe your actions were justified, excusable, your rights violated, or you are the wrong person, immediately contact the trusted, experienced, and aggressive Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorney, Paul S. Peters III, Esquire.  He will work tirelessly and tenaciously to build and prove your defense using any applicable crime defenses stated above.  Do not waste any time as time is of the essence, especially in gathering evidence for your defense.

Raising a Criminal Defense in Pennsylvania can create a complicated process to properly and effectively present the defense to a judge or jury; therefore, these situations require that you have an experienced, knowledgeable, and aggressive defense attorney to craft and present clear and convincing arguments to support your defense claim.  This is why you need a trusted and experienced criminal defense attorney such as Paul S. Peters III, Esquire.

If you or a loved one face Criminal Charges, you MUST call Attorney Paul S. Peters III, Esquire 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and he can appear at late night bail hearings.  Attorney Paul S. Peters III, Esquire knows that crime and the police never sleep.






If you are arrested in any of the following Pennsylvania Counties:            MontgomeryPhiladelphiaBucksDelawareChesterLehigh, LancasterNorthamptonBerksAdamsCumberlandDauphinFranklinFultonHuntingtonJuniataLebanonMifflinPerrySnyderYork BradfordCameronCentreClintonLycomingMontourNorthumberlandPotterSullivanTiogaUnionCarbonColumbiaLackawannaLuzerneMonroePikeSchuylkillSusquehannaWayne, and Wyoming County 

It is important you contact the trusted, aggressive, and experienced Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorney:


Paul S. Peters III, Esquire at: