Stand Your Ground – NC’S Castle Doctrine
In recent years, North Carolina has codified what has been referred to in other states as the ‘Castle Doctrine’ or the ‘Stand your Ground’ rule. This has created a presumption of self-defense in cases where the use of deadly force may otherwise be considered a crime. Instead, the defender who uses deadly force under the right circumstances may be able to use the Castle Doctrine defense against a criminal prosecution. To be clear, a defender under these circumstances can still be charged with a crime, but they can rely on the Castle Doctrine as a defense to the crime charged.
The North Carolina legislature has expanded the rule to include not only the home, but also the workplace and motor vehicle. Specifically in the case of motor vehicles, North Carolina General Statue § 14-51.2 allows a lawful occupant of a motor vehicle to use deadly force to defend herself against an unlawful and forced entry into her vehicle. Pursuant to that same statute, the lawful occupant of the motor vehicle is presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent death or serious bodily harm to herself. Further, the person who unlawfully entered the motor vehicle is presumed to have done so with the intent to commit an unlawful act involving force or violence.
By way of example, consider a situation where Daphne is driving her vehicle at night on a public street when she comes to a stop at a stoplight. At that point, and for whatever reason, Veronica pulls her vehicle in front Daphne, cutting off her path. Veronica promptly exits her vehicle, opens the door to Daphne’s vehicle, and pulls Daphne out of Daphne’s vehicle by her hair. Veronica throws Daphne to the ground and gets on top of her and begins to beat her. During the course of this struggle, Daphne obtains some tool, such as scissors, and strikes Veronica with the scissors. In doing so, Daphne uses what is considered deadly force. In this example, the scissors puncture Veronica’s neck causing fatal injuries.
In this case, Daphne was the lawful occupant of a motor vehicle. Veronica unlawfully and forcefully entered Daphne’s car by opening the door without permission. Further, Veronica forcibly removed Daphne from the vehicle by pulling her out by her hair. Therefore, Daphne most likely meets the criteria established in NCGS § 14-51.2(b)(1) & (2) and is presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent death or serious bodily harm to herself when using defensive force that is intended or likely to cause death or serious bodily harm to another. Under this presumption, Daphne can use deadly force to protect herself and the statute provides a legal safeguard for her to do so as a defense to criminal prosecution.
In contrast, under NCGS § 14-51.2(d), Veronica’s unlawful and forcible entry into Daphne’s car provides the presumption that she did so with the intent to commit an unlawful act involving force or violence. Daphne does not have a duty to retreat under such facts and is immune from criminal liability for the use of defensive force that is intended or likely to cause death or serious bodily harm. Therefore, under NCGS § 14-51.2, Daphne used legal and justifiable deadly force to defend herself against an unlawful and forced entry into her vehicle.
This is more expansive than the general idea that allows someone to use deadly force to protect themselves within the home. Instead, this statute expands the ‘Castle Doctrine’ to include more than just the castle itself. The doctrine includes mobile spaces by virtue of a motor vehicle and places away from the home such as the workplace. In passing this law, North Carolina has clearly stated its opinion on self-protection and has given sweeping protection to such defenders through a presumption of self-defense.
Our team has represented many clients who have acted in self-defense, yet have been charged with crimes. Contact Hatch, Little & Bunn’s Criminal Defense Team today for a free consultation.