When is self-defense actually self-defense in NC?

Most people think that people are allowed to defend themselves any time they are attacked, assaulted, or provoked. Well, the law on self-defense in North Carolina says otherwise, and with good reasons too. Generally, you can defend yourself but the laws on self-defense set forth several requirements. While thinking of arming yourself with ammunition for self defense, you should also arm yourself with the pertinent laws. This blog post will explain the applicable laws on self-defense in NC. In North Carolina, as in many other states, self-defense laws guide the rights of North Carolinians to protect themselves against attacks.

The ‘Stand Your Ground’ Laws in North Carolina

Prior to 2011, before using deadly force North Carolinians had a duty to first retreat in the face of an attack or assault; if possible. Otherwise, you would have ended up with a criminal charge on your hands for not running away from an attack.

The ‘Stand Your Ground’ law operates in North Carolina. It removes the duty of the citizens to retreat from attacks or threats before one can use deadly force. It takes into account, the length to which one can go to defend themselves or another person against attacks. However, the law operates within reason to protect your rights to self-defense in NC.

Use of reasonable force is considered justifiable in North Carolina under ‘Stand your ground’ when:

  • You reasonably believe that you need to use force either to protect yourself or another person against an imminent use of unlawful force by an attacker.
  • Within reason, you believe, that the force is necessary to stop an imminent attack that can result in great bodily injury or death.
  • You are in your home, workplace or vehicle and the attacker upon whom the reasonable defense force was used unlawfully intruded or attempted to forcefully and unlawfully enter any of the above. This is sometimes referred to as the ‘Castle doctrine’ for these places are regarded as ones castle which one is entitled to protect.

Essentially, you are only allowed to stand your ground (with deadly force) against an attack within reason.

However, the law will not protect you when the use of self-defense is improper:

  • The force is used against a law enforcement agent or bail bondsperson in the course of performing their official duties.
    • When the said official has identified his or herself and therefore, you are fully aware of his or her identity.
  • The amount of force used is unreasonable under the circumstances to defend yourself or another person.

The use of deadly force is only permissible where one is in imminent danger of death or serious injury. Otherwise, the force (self-defense) must be on par with the force of the attack. For instance, proper self-defense answers a punch with a punch rather than a shot for a punch. Similarly you can’t take out a knife and stab someone who has slapped you. You cannot use excessive force or deadly force during a mild attack or fight.

The use of deadly force is unjustified where:

  • The person against whom the force is employed is rightfully and lawfully at the location (home, vehicle, or workplace) or resident of the home.
  • The person against whom the force is used has stopped trying to forcefully gain entrance into any of the locations.

The ‘Stand Your Ground’ law in North Carolina allows one to use force, deadly or otherwise, in self-defense. The self-defense must be within reason when such citizen is at his or her home, vehicle or workplace. A person may also use reasonable force to defend his family or a third-party. Before you decide to stand your ground you better be doubly sure that deadly force is necessary. If it was not appropriate to use deadly force you can bet that you'll face a serious assault charge.

If you need more clarification about self-defense in NC please contact our office for a free consultation with a criminal defense attorney. We are here to provide you with more information and guidance. Lastly, if you’ve been charged with assault but you think you have a valid claim of self-defense we’d be happy to defend you.

Categories: Assault, Self-Defense

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Ryan Stowe is the principal attorney at Stowe Law Firm, PLLC. Mr. Stowe is proud to be practicing in his hometown of Salisbury, NC, and is a first generation Rowan County attorney. Mr. Stowe takes pride in being a criminal defense attorney. He focuse…

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