Imagine enjoying a walk through downtown Hillsborough, and someone suddenly picks a fight with you. North Carolina is a stand-your-ground state, meaning you can use force in self-defense without retreating first. Though this law can empower residents to protect themselves from threats, it is more complex than it might seem.
What does it mean to stand your ground?
Other states impose a duty to retreat when faced with danger. This indicates you must withdraw to safety and avoid conflict by backing away or leaving the area. You may be charged with assault if you use lethal force in self-defense when you could have safely walked away.
North Carolina’s stand-your-ground statute eliminates the duty to retreat. It enables you to use force, but not deadly force, if you think it is necessary or if the person threatening you is using unlawful force. However, in dangerous situations such as a home invasion, you may be justified using lethal force and could escape criminal penalties.
When is the use of deadly force justified?
Use of deadly force is permitted when:
- You have a reasonable belief that such force is needed to prevent imminent death or severe bodily harm to yourself or another
- The individual against whom you used force was an unlawful invader or attempted to violently enter your home, car, or workplace (also known as the castle doctrine)
The castle doctrine states that your home is your castle and that you may defend yourself and your family from intruders. If you use force as authorized by the stand-your-ground statute, you may not be legally accountable unless you used force on:
- Law enforcement
- Bail bondsmen
- Another individual who also has a right to be where you are
Nobody should knowingly allow themselves to be put in harm’s way. However, emotions run high, and misunderstandings are common in tense situations. If you have been accused of assault while acting in self-defense, it would be best to speak with an attorney immediately.