It is no secret that the world can be a dangerous place and sometimes we are faced with these dangers in moments when split-second decisions can be the difference between life and death. Understanding what constitutes self-defense and what the lawful rights are to defend oneself is important for all North Carolinians.
Read on to learn about your legal rights in a number of circumstances that may require the use of force to protect and defend yourself and your family in North Carolina.
If you find yourself in a self-defense situation in North Carolina, ensure your rights are protected with representation from a trusted firearm offenses lawyer in Raleigh.
Is self-defense legal in NC?
Self-defense is a countermeasure used to protect yourself, someone else, or your property with justifiable use of force. North Carolina is a “Stand Your Ground” state, allowing a person to commit a forcible act in certain circumstances as a defense.
No one should be put in a position of danger without knowing what their legal rights are. Imagine using excessive force to prevent great bodily harm, only to later find out you are the person facing criminal charges because your actions are not protected under North Carolina law.
Every single circumstance or anecdote of instances of self-defense is unique. There are few ways to truly prepare for the imminent danger or potential death that can result once you are in the path of a criminal or the victim of a crime. Being equipped with the knowledge of self-defense law and what protects you to act with such force to avoid great bodily injury and serious bodily harm is invaluable.
What are the 3 prerequisites of self-defense?
Even though it is legal in North Carolina to protect yourself, the laws clearly state the circumstances in which self-defense is legal. It’s best to review the important aspects of self-defense laws outlined in NCGS Sections 14-51.3 and to seek legal consultation if you have questions.
There are three elements of self-defense as outlined by the law. In order to be classified as self-defense, justifiable in the eyes of the law, and to avoid criminal prosecution. It must be proven that during the time in which force was used, the defendant, or person claiming self-defense, believed:
- There was an imminent danger to themself, a third party, or their property.
- Reasonable use of force was necessary to prevent harm.
- Only the necessary amount of force was used to prevent harm.
Who has the burden of proof in self-defense in North Carolina?
In North Carolina criminal court, the burden of proof to determine whether self-defense was enacted lawfully and with reasonable force falls on the shoulders of the State, otherwise known as the Prosecution. In order to receive a guilty verdict against the defendant, the prosecution must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant used unlawful or unjust force.
The prosecution can also prove that the defendant was the initial aggressor or used force that was excessive and beyond the reasonable amount needed to protect themself. The final instance in which the prosecution would have a solid case for conviction, putting the defendant at risk of serving time for their self-defense, is when the forcible act is committed against a law enforcement officer or bail bonds person.
Seeking capable and experienced criminal defense lawyers to discuss the confidential or sensitive information of your case is important in planning your defense against the state. If you’ve recently used self-defense to protect yourself, your loved ones, or your property from unlawful and forcible entry or unlawful force, contact the Coolidge Law Firm for a free consultation.
The “Stand Your Ground” Laws in North Carolina
All states have laws that outline what is considered justifiable self-defense. North Carolina is a “Stand Your Ground” state, meaning that residents have the lawful right to use force when faced with a reasonable fear of threatening behavior. Stand-your-ground laws exist for the use of deadly force and the use of non-deadly force, but even states that do adopt these laws have restrictions.
Important statutes related to the stand-your-ground laws for North Carolinians:
- Statute GS 14-51.2: A person who unlawfully or who by force enters or attempts to enter a person’s home, motor vehicle, or workplace is presumed to be doing so with the intent to commit an unlawful act involving force or violence.
- Statute GS 14-51.3: A person is justified in using force against another person when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that the act is necessary against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force.
- Statute GS 14-51.4: A person is not justified in using force because they were the aggressor, they were committing a felony at the time of force, or force was used against a protected individual like police officers.
What Is the Difference Between ‘Stand Your Ground’ And Self Defense?
Even when standing your ground, a thorough investigation will take place that ensures the threat of perceived harm was reasonable in the use of deadly force or in protecting oneself from serious bodily injury. Even though a person is allowed to protect their home if an intruder invades or the use of deadly force will prevent imminent death, it’s important to know the nuances between self-defense, stand your ground, and the castle doctrine.
There are three categorizations of self-defense laws that vary from state to state:
- Duty to Retreat: a person who fears imminent threat or death must attempt to retreat or flee from the situation before inflicting harm. Because North Carolina law gives a person the right to stand their ground, the duty to retreat is not enacted by the state.
- Stand Your Ground: in North Carolina there is no legal restriction that says one has the duty to retreat, therefore, an individual can use deadly force or an act of defense that may cause serious injury to someone. Stand your ground law is not restricted to the home, place of work, or motor vehicle if the defense is used to prevent imminent death or serious bodily harm.
- Castle Doctrine: being given the legal right to protect yourself and your property, the stand-your-ground laws of the castle doctrine allow a lawful occupant of a home or place of business to defend their person with the use of force.
When You Can Use Deadly Force For Self-Defense in North Carolina?
The use of deadly force should be the absolute last resort for anyone, including when committing an act of self-defense. However, there are some instances in which the use of deadly force is considered a lawful and justifiable defense.
Reasonable and justifiable use of deadly force in self-defense law means:
- You had the lawful right to be at the location at the time of the event.
- You believed this level of force was necessary to escape bodily harm or death to you or another person.
Unlawful force and unjustifiable acts of deadly violence that do not give you the lawful right to use deadly force:
- The person has a legal right to be at the residence, workplace, or vehicle and there is no legal written injunction prohibiting them from the location.
- The other person stopped entering the home, workplace, or vehicle prior to lethal force being inflicted upon them.
- The person using deadly force was the aggressor in the situation.
Contact The Coolidge Law Firm If You’ve Been Involved In A Self Defense Incident
We are here to help you navigate through issues or questions related to your self-defense case. Our Raleigh, NC criminal defense attorneys are often able to get criminal cases dismissed before they make it in front of a judge and can help you understand the stand-your-ground laws before reaching a North Carolina court.
If necessary, Call the Coolidge Law Office at (919) 239-8448 or fill out the form below to reach out to our law firm and schedule a free consultation.