I am asked frequently if warning shots are a good idea. In Pennsylvania, the answer is no. The term “warning shots” is not found anywhere in the Pennsylvania statutes.

You won’t find a statute saying that warning shots are prohibited, and you won’t find a statute defining what a warning shot is, but we are all familiar with the term. Is a warning shot considered use of deadly force? We’ll help you to understand the proper definition of deadly force to answer this question.

It is Deadly Force

Deadly force is described in the Pennsylvania Crimes Code as, “Force which, under the circumstances in which it is used, is readily capable of causing death or serious bodily injury.”

Let’s look at an example: Imagine there is a trespasser on your front yard and you want to get rid of them. Not only do you want to get rid of them, but you also want to “teach them a lesson,” by shooting a warning shot. Now, when you pull that trigger, and the gun is pointed in the direction of another human being, is that bullet readily capable of causing death or serious bodily injury? The answer is obviously yes, it is.

Never fire a warning shot

Next question, can you legally use deadly force against a simple trespasser in your front yard? Absolutely not in Pennsylvania. If you choose to use a warning shot, you need to be in a scenario where use of deadly force would be justified. My practical advice: Warning shots are a bad idea and should never be used in Pennsylvania. For more information on the use of deadly force in Pennsylvania, call U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.