Are warning shots a good idea?
This is a common question we get. The answer in Pennsylvania is NO!
In Pennsylvania, the term “warning shots” is nowhere 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.
However, we are all familiar with the term “warning shot.” Now let me pose a question to you, is a warning shot considered use of deadly force? I will help you to understand the proper definition of deadly force to answer this question. “Deadly force” is described in the Pennsylvania crimes codes as quote “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 in your front yard and you want to get rid of this trespasser. 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 in the direction of another human being,
“Is that bullet readily capable of causing death or serious bodily injury?”
The answer to that is obviously yes.
The next question is,
“Can you legally use deadly force against the simple trespasser in your front yard?”
The answer to that is absolutely not. So if you choose to use a warning shot you need to be in a scenario where use of deadly force would be justified.