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North Carolina Self Defense Laws

The laws governing self-defense law in North Carolina are complex and can be difficult to understand, but it’s essential to grasp their context. What are the rules governing self-defense and crime in North Carolina? When will a person be criminally liable for the harm of another, or protected under the idea of self-defense? Here’s how North Carolina law views self-defense. If you have any additional questions, reach out to an experienced Raleigh criminal lawyer.

North Carolina Is a Stand Your Ground State

Nearly half of the states in the U.S. recognize some form of stand your ground when it comes to self-defense. These differ from general self-defense laws in a few ways: States without stand your ground laws generally impose a duty to retreat on a person before justifying using force against an attacker. In other words, these states require anyone who can get away from a confrontation to do so, or face potential charges for battery, manslaughter, or murder.

Stand your ground laws like those in North Carolina, though, remove a person’s duty to retreat. In other words, a person threatened with violence does not have to try to get away before resorting to reasonable, even deadly force (which may be considered reasonable).

Important caveats to stand your ground laws exist. For example, responding with deadly force in response to a punch to the face might not be reasonable, even according to stand your ground law. Typically, the law uses a “blow-by-blow” approach to determine if a person has used a justifiable amount of force.

The Castle Doctrine

Further, North Carolina is one of the few states to adopt the Castle Doctrine, which is a version of a stand your ground law. This restricts the terms in which a person can use deadly force to protect himself or herself. Under the Castle Doctrine, a home is a “castle,” so that means a person has the right to use deadly force to protect that castle from siege. If an intruder invades a person’s space, the property owner can legally use deadly force against him or her, with no legal obligation to back down. This right extends not only to a person’s home but also his or her vehicle and workplace under North Carolina law.

A Summary of North Carolina Self-Defense Laws

North Carolina’s self-defense laws fall under NCGS Sections 14-51.3. The most relevant sections include the following provisions:

  • North Carolina law entitles a person to the right of self-defense and the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat in any space he or she lawfully occupies.
  • A person can only use deadly force when he or she believes that the use of such force is vital to prevent imminent threat of serious injury or death to the self or another.
  • Under the Castle Doctrine, the use of justifiable deadly force only applies to the home, the workplace, or a vehicle, under threat of imminent danger.
  • Exceptions to the use of deadly force in self-defense exist, regarding the Castle Doctrine. The following people may have exclusion to those restrictions: police officers, landlords, and bail bonds professionals.
  • If a person retreats or stops a threatening behavior, using deadly force may be unjustified.

North Carolina’s self-defense laws may be difficult to understand, but every citizen should be familiar with them to understand their rights and responsibilities regarding use of deadly force. Contrary to popular opinion, the law does not allow anyone to use deadly force as self-defense without justification or within any area of his or her choosing. Certain self-defense laws only pertain to a person’s home, car, or workplace. Additionally, the use of deadly force must be reasonably justifiable, defined as an imminent threat of death or great bodily harm to the self or another.