Self-Defense and Standing your Ground in North Carolina

Of the many defenses available in charges like assault, murder, or attempted murder, self-defense is among the most common. Self-defense is what’s commonly known as an “affirmative defense.” This means that you don’t deny you committed the alleged offense, but rather, you claim that you did it, but were justified in doing so.

When properly proven, self-defense can absolve you from criminal liability. This is because the law assumes all people have the right to use reasonable force in order to protect themselves (or others) from bodily harm. In North Carolina, you may even use deadly force if you are being faced with deadly force – but there are several exceptions to this general rule:

  • If the subject of the deadly force is an on-duty, lawfully acting law enforcement officer;
  • If the person using the deadly force is in the act of committing, attempting, or fleeing after committing a felony;
  • If the person using the deadly force was the initial aggressor and failed to withdraw from the dispute before resorting to deadly force – unless the person did attempt to withdraw, and the other party continued to advance.

Establishing the Defense

If you want to raise self-defense, it’s important to keep in mind that you – the defendant – have the “burden of proof.” This means that it is your job to build your case and prove that you were justified in committing the alleged act. Typically, the State has the burden of proof in criminal cases, but when it comes to affirmative defenses, the burden shifts. Now, it’s your turn to produce evidence.

Can I Stand My Ground?

You may have heard of the “Castle Doctrine,” meaning a man (or woman!) has a right to stand his ground and protect his home or family from an aggressor. Some states impose a duty to retreat rule, meaning that you have to either retreat or attempt to retreat before using deadly force. North Carolina has no such rule – provided that the person in the defensive position is in a place lawfully and believes that the use of force is necessary to prevent imminent harm. Typically, you have the right to match deadly force with deadly force when you’re in your home or vehicle.

Building Your Defense

If you’ve been charged with a crime and you believe you acted in self-defense, it’s important to engage an experienced attorney who can help you craft a compelling defense. Attorney Cotten has served hundreds of satisfied clients through Wake, Johnston, Harnett, Orange, Sampson, Lee, and Chatham Counties. Give him a call or click over to the main page to chat with a legal assistant – any time, day or night. You deserve a strong defense, so why leave it to chance?