Pepper Spray Laws – Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is a state with hardly any pepper spray laws to speak of on the books, and aside from a definition for “tear or noxious gas”, and its related use in the busting of labor disputes, it does not restrict citizens from purchasing, possessing, or using in self-defense defensive sprays of any kind or quantity.

Curiously, though Pennsylvania law makes specific mention of stun guns and other like electric weapons as being restricted from possession by felons and other persons, defensive sprays are not.

flag of Pennsylvania

You can get the full scoop on Pennsylvania’s laws regarding defensive sprays in the rest of this article below along with some excerpts of the most relevant state statutes at the very end.

Fast Facts

  • Pennsylvania places no restriction on citizens when it comes to purchasing pepper and other defensive sprays. Defensive sprays of all kinds can be shipped directly to end users in the state.
  • Pennsylvania allows citizens to carry any quantity of pepper spray or other defensive spray that they choose.
  • All common formulations of pepper spray are permitted for civilian possession, including OC, CN and CS.

Overview

Pennsylvania is another state in a long line of such states that has hardly seen fit to regulate pepper spray or other defensive sprays in the hands of civilians at all.

These common defensive sprays meet the definition of “tear or noxious gas” which, according to the state, means any liquid or gaseous substance that when dispersed in the atmosphere blinds the eyes with tears or irritates or injures other organs and tissues of the human body, or causes nausea, and specifically names but does not limit this definition to red pepper spray.

Ergo, we can infer that legit tear gasses (CN or CS) as well as chemical mace meet this definition also.

Nowhere else in the state statutes are listed any restrictions on the capacity or type of such sprays for civilian possession, and curiously enough it appears that even felons and other persons normally prohibited from being in possession of “dangerous” or other weapons may still be in possession of typical defensive sprays.

Curiously, Pennsylvania does have statutes on the books prohibiting those people from even being in possession of a stun gun or other electrical weapons, but not pepper spray.

As you might expect, illicit or criminal misuse of pepper spray is still a crime that will likely fall under assault in one category or another. Just because pepper spray is barely regulated does not mean that wanton or accidental misuse will not have consequences.

Conclusion

Pennsylvania law is highly permissive concerning pepper spray, and other defensive sprays. Civilians will encounter no roadblocks and no restrictions concerning the purchasing, possession and carry of these sprays.

All formulations of common defensive sprays are allowed so long as they are intended only to temporarily disable, and that means you can choose from OC, CN, CS, or chemical mace formulations according to your preferences.

Relevant State Statutes

2708 Use of tear or noxious gas in labor disputes.

(a) Offense defined.–A person other than a duly constituted officer of the law is guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree if he uses or directs the use of tear or noxious gas against any person involved in a labor dispute.

(b) Definition.–As used in this section, the term “tear or noxious gas” means any liquid or gaseous substance that, when dispersed in the atmosphere, blinds the eyes with tears or irritates or injures other organs and tissues of the human body or causes nausea, including, but not limited to, red pepper spray.

908. Prohibited offensive weapons.

(a) Offense defined.–A person commits a misdemeanor of the first degree if, except as authorized by law, he makes repairs, sells, or otherwise deals in, uses, or possesses any offensive weapon.

(…)

(c) Definitions.–As used in this section, the following words and phrases shall have the meanings given to them in this subsection:

“Firearm.” Any weapon which is designed to or may readily be converted to expel any projectile by the action of an explosive or the frame or receiver of any such weapon.

“Offensive weapons.” Any bomb, grenade, machine gun, sawed-off shotgun with a barrel less than 18 inches, firearm specially made or specially adapted for concealment or silent discharge, any blackjack, sandbag, metal knuckles, dagger, knife, razor or cutting instrument, the blade of which is exposed in an automatic way by switch, push-button, spring mechanism, or otherwise, any stun gun, stun baton, taser or other electronic or electric weapon or other implement for the infliction of serious bodily injury which serves no common lawful purpose.

(…)

501. Definitions.

(…)

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

(…)

“Unlawful force.” Force, including confinement, which is employed without the consent of the person against whom it is directed and the employment of which constitutes an offense or actionable tort or would constitute such offense or tort except for a defense (such as the absence of intent, negligence, or mental capacity; duress; youth; or diplomatic status) not amounting to a privilege to use the force. Assent constitutes consent, within the meaning of this section, whether or not it otherwise is legally effective, except assent to the infliction of death or serious bodily injury.

(…)

505. Use of force in self-protection.

(a) Use of force justifiable for protection of the person.–The use of force upon or toward another person is justifiable when the actor believes that such force is immediately necessary for the purpose of protecting himself against the use of unlawful force by such other person on the present occasion.

(b) Limitations on justifying necessity for use of force.–

(1) The use of force is not justifiable under this section:

(i) to resist an arrest which the actor knows is being made by a peace officer, although the arrest is unlawful; or

(ii) to resist force used by the occupier or possessor of property or by another person on his behalf, where the actor knows that the person using the force is doing so under a claim of right to protect the property, except that this limitation shall not apply if:

(A) the actor is a public officer acting in the performance of his duties or a person lawfully assisting him therein or a person making or assisting in a lawful arrest;

(B) the actor has been unlawfully dispossessed of the property and is making a reentry or recaption justified by section 507 of this title (relating to use of force for the protection of property); or

(C) the actor believes that such force is necessary to protect himself against death or serious bodily injury.

(2) The use of deadly force is not justifiable under this section unless the actor believes that such force is necessary to protect himself against death, serious bodily injury, kidnapping or sexual intercourse compelled by force or threat; nor is it justifiable if:

(i) the actor, with the intent of causing death or serious bodily injury, provoked the use of force against himself in the same encounter; or

(ii) the actor knows that he can avoid the necessity of using such force with complete safety by retreating, except the actor is not obliged to retreat from his dwelling or place of work, unless he was the initial aggressor or is assailed in his place of work by another person whose place of work the actor knows it to be.

(2.1) Except as otherwise provided in paragraph (2.2), an actor is presumed to have a reasonable belief that deadly force is immediately necessary to protect himself against death, serious bodily injury, kidnapping or sexual intercourse compelled by force or threat if both of the following conditions exist:

(i) The person against whom the force is used is in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering, or has unlawfully and forcefully entered and is present within, a dwelling, residence or occupied vehicle; or the person against whom the force is used is or is attempting to unlawfully and forcefully remove another against that other’s will from the dwelling, residence or occupied vehicle.

(ii) The actor knows or has reason to believe that the unlawful and forceful entry or act is occurring or has occurred.

(2.2) The presumption set forth in paragraph (2.1) does not apply if:

(i) the person against whom the force is used has the right to be in or is a lawful resident of the dwelling, residence or vehicle, such as an owner or lessee;

(ii) the person sought to be removed is a child or grandchild or is otherwise in the lawful custody or under the lawful guardianship of the person against whom the protective force is used;

(iii) the actor is engaged in a criminal activity or is using the dwelling, residence or occupied vehicle to further a criminal activity; or

(iv) the person against whom the force is used is a peace officer acting in the performance of his official duties and the actor using force knew or reasonably should have known that the person was a peace officer.

(2.3) An actor who is not engaged in a criminal activity, who is not in illegal possession of a firearm and who is attacked in any place where the actor would have a duty to retreat under paragraph (2)(ii) has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his ground and use force, including deadly force, if:

(i) the actor has a right to be in the place where he was attacked;

(ii) the actor believes it is immediately necessary to do so to protect himself against death, serious bodily injury, kidnapping or sexual intercourse by force or threat; and

(iii) the person against whom the force is used displays or otherwise uses:

(A) a firearm or replica of a firearm as defined in 42 Pa.C.S. § 9712 (relating to sentences for offenses committed with firearms); or

(B) any other weapon readily or apparently capable of lethal use.

(…)

506. Use of force for the protection of other persons.

(a) General rule.–The use of force upon or toward the person of another is justifiable to protect a third person when:

(1) the actor would be justified under section 505 (relating to use of force in self-protection) in using such force to protect himself against the injury he believes to be threatened to the person whom he seeks to protect;

(2) under the circumstances as the actor believes them to be, the person whom he seeks to protect would be justified in using such protective force; and

(3) the actor believes that his intervention is necessary for the protection of such other person.

(b) Exception.–Notwithstanding subsection (a), the actor is not obliged to retreat to any greater extent than the person whom he seeks to protect.

507. Use of force for the protection of property.

(a) Use of force justifiable for protection of property.–The use of force upon or toward the person of another is justifiable when the actor believes that such force is immediately necessary:

(1) to prevent or terminate an unlawful entry or other trespass upon land or a trespass against or the unlawful carrying away of tangible movable property, if such land or movable property is, or is believed by the actor to be, in his possession or in the possession of another person for whose protection he acts; or

(2) to effect an entry or reentry upon land or to retake tangible movable property, if:

(i) the actor believes that he or the person by whose authority he acts or a person from whom he or such other person derives title was unlawfully dispossessed of such land or movable property and is entitled to possession; and

(ii) (A) the force is used immediately or on fresh pursuit after such dispossession; or

(B) the actor believes that the person against whom he uses force has no claim of right to the possession of the property and, in the case of land, the circumstances, as the actor believes them to be, are of such urgency that it would be an exceptional hardship to postpone the entry or reentry until a court order is obtained.

(b) Meaning of possession.–For the purpose of subsection (a) of this section:

(1) A person who has parted with the custody of property to another who refuses to restore it to him is no longer in possession, unless the property is movable and was and still is located on land in his possession.

(2) A person who has been dispossessed of land does not regain possession thereof merely by setting foot thereon.

(3) A person who has a license to use or occupy real property is deemed to be in possession thereof except against the licensor acting under claim of right.

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