In this crazy world we live in, one never knows when you may experience a threat to your life, your family or loved one’s lives, or your property. Thankfully, the law does provide several defenses and laws to enable you to protect yourself and others. Several examples are provided below on how these defenses could play out, but these situations are always very fact specific and depend on the circumstances. For these reasons, nothing in this post should be considered as legal advice for your specific situation.
When and how can I use self-defense or defend others?
Generally, the use of force against a person posing a threat must be reasonably necessary to protect yourself. Further, the amount of force must be reasonable as well. For example, if someone is squirting your with a water gun you cannot attack them with a baseball bat. On the other hand, if someone is attacking you with a stick you could probably defend yourself with a similar object. You can likewise use reasonable and necessary force to defend another person.
When may I use deadly force?
Deadly force may only be used if you reasonably believe that action is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm or in lawful defense of another. If someone is vandalizing your car, you cannot shoot them with a gun. If a 100 pound boy tries to punch a 200 pound man, the larger man cannot stab the boy with a knife. It may be a different story if the 200 pound man tries to attack the 100 pound boy.
In any case, you cannot be the aggressor (i.e., you cannot start the fight and later claim self-defense), but there is no duty to retreat unless you attempt to use deadly force against a non-deadly threat.
What about protecting your property?
Reasonable non-deadly force may be used to protect property. If someone snatches your purse, you could spray them with pepper spray, but you could not fire a gun at them unless the attacker attempts to cause you great bodily harm.
What if someone threatens my house?
Deadly force may be used in defense of your home or residence if you reasonably believe the attacker intends to kill, inflict serious injury, or commit a felony in the residence. If you come home during the day and someone is stealing your tools out of your shed, you could physically try to prevent them from taking your property, but you can’t always use a firearm or other deadly weapon in that situation. Of course, if someone tries to break into your home during the middle of the night, it’s likely reasonable to use a deadly weapon to protect yourself.
If you end up in court having to prove you acted lawfully in defending yourself, the State has the burden to prove you did not act in self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt. All of the above examples and similar situations would likely boil down to an issue for the jury to decide. In any situation like this, call 911 if possible and only use as much force as you absolutely have to do confront the situation.
If you have questions about legitimate ways you can defend yourself, give us a call for a consultation to discuss your rights. Our team is located across North and South Carolina. To talk to a member of our team anywhere in the Carolinas, call 888-748-KING (5464).