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What are North Carolina’s self-defense laws?

Though self-defense laws vary from state to state, the goal of each is to establish circumstances under which a person may defend him or herself through force. In some states, a person must retreat before using deadly force. In the majority, however, the laws fundamentally remove citizens’ duty to retreat from attackers before they may resort to deadly force. These states follow some form or another of stand your ground laws. According to FindLaw, North Carolina is one such state. 

The Castle Doctrine 

Though state law eliminates your duty to retreat from an attacker, it differs from traditional stand your ground laws in that it further restricts the context in which you may use deadly force for defense. Per the law, you may defend yourself with force if an intruder invades your space. Because of this stipulation, North Carolina’s self-defense laws follow a version of stand your ground laws known as the “Castle Doctrine.” The theory behind the Castle Doctrine is that your home is your “castle” and you have the right to defend it. However, NC is one of many states that extends your right to not back down to your vehicle and place of work. 

Justifiable use of force 

North Carolina’s laws further detail when you may and may not use force without legal consequences. You may use reasonable force (not deadly) when you feel force is necessary to defend yourself or another person against an attacker’s forthcoming use of illegal force. 

If you have the right to be in a certain location or establishment, you may use deadly force if you believe that doing so will protect yourself or another person from great bodily injury or imminent death. In such a situation, you do not have a duty to retreat. If you use deadly force in such a situation, you will not face legal repercussions unless you use deadly force against a bail bondsperson or law enforcement officer who acts lawfully within his or her scope of responsibility. Per the law, you do not have a duty to retreat from your home, place of work or vehicle in the face of fear of serious bodily injury or death. 

Non-justifiable use of force 

There are a few instances in which you may not use force to defend yourself. For instance, if you are the initial aggressor, you may not act with force. If the attacker ends efforts to forcefully enter your home, place of work or vehicle, you too must back down. Finally, if the attacker has the right to be in the home, place of work or vehicle, or if he or she is a lawful resident of the home, you may not use force. 

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