As of 1st December 2011, North Carolina’s citizens have had the legal right to defend themselves in their homes, places of work, or vehicles using deadly force without duty to retreat. The legal right to defend oneself is conferred under North Carolina’s Stand Your Ground law.
Stand Your Ground laws, of course, don’t just exist in North Carolina alone. Twenty-five other states in the US, including Florida, also have these laws. They have been in existence since the 1980s and they are known by a variety of other names, including the Dirty Harry-inspired Make My Day and even Shoot First Ask Later.
However, even with Stand Your Ground laws in effect in North Carolina, we have witnessed situations where a person who was acting in self-defense is arrested and charged with assault, manslaughter, or even murder.
Should you find yourself in a similar situation, you need to seek out a knowledgeable NC criminal attorney who understands how self-defense and Stand Your Ground apply to your case.
In this post, we’re going to explain how those laws work, their differences, and what you need to know to use them in your defense.
Stand Your Ground Law In North Carolina
NCGS § 14-51.2 and § 14-51.3 address Stand Your Ground laws in North Carolina. Under these laws, anyone can use deadly force in any place that he/she has a legal right to be in without having a duty to retreat. This law applies if:
- You have reason to believe that the force you use is necessary to prevent great bodily harm, injury, or death to yourself or another.
- If the person against whom the defensive force is used is an unlawful intruder or is forcibly and unlawfully trying to gain entry into your home, place of work, or vehicle.
The second scenario described above is similar to what is sometimes referred to as “the castle doctrine.” The castle doctrine recognizes a person’s home as his/her “castle,” and says that one should legally be able to defend his/her home and its occupants from external threats posed by intruders and trespassers.
Are there exceptions to the Stand Your Ground law? Absolutely.
The use of deadly force against bondsmen and women – as well as law enforcement officers – is prohibited. Provided, of course, that the officer:
- acts in accordance with the lawful performance of his/her official duties.
- identifies him/herself to you, unless they reasonably believe that you already know their identity.
Stand Your Ground Law Vs. Self-Defense Law in North Carolina
Before Stand Your Ground laws were enacted, a person generally had a duty to retreat before attempting to use deadly force against an attacker. In other words, if you had a chance to get away or avoid confrontation, you had to do so. Otherwise, you risked prosecution for assault, manslaughter, or murder – depending on the outcome of events.
In the absence of the Stand Your Ground law, one is limited to using reasonable force in self-defense against an attacker. This implies that deadly force can’t be used if the attacker is using non-deadly force. For instance, you can’t use a gun against someone who slaps you. In some states, the only justified response to an attack is returning the same level of force as that of an attacker, such as a fist for a fist.
All of this is important to know if you find yourself charged with assault after defending yourself or another from harm. Do not allow yourself to be punished when someone else started the altercation and forced your hand. You fought back then – with a skilled NC defense attorney’s help, you can fight back now as well.