The Defense of Others in North Carolina


When someone is charged with a violent crime in North Carolina, one of the ways they can be found not guilty is to raise the affirmative defense known as the defense of others. Defense of others is a variation of Self-Defense. Affirmative defenses are complex legal arguments that require very specific procedural elements to be met. If you believe that you have a case that involves self-defense or the defense of others, contact the experienced legal team at Jetton and Meredith today!

The elements of the Defense of Others are very similar to the elements of Self-Defense.

  1. A reasonable belief that the use of force is necessary

    As with all defense claims or self-defense claims, one of the first things that will be examined is whether you possessed, at the time you used force to defend someone, a reasonable belief that it was necessary to do so.

    This is both a subjective and objective test. First, does the jury believe that given all the facts and circumstances of the situation, a normal or reasonable person would believe that the use of was necessary. Second, the jury would look at whether or not you held that reasonable belief at the time you acted.
  2. The person whom you are defending must be able to use self-defense in their own situation.

    This is the most important factor in deciding whether or not you should use force to defend another person. You must be absolutely sure that when you make the decision to use force to defend another person, that the doctrine of self-defense would cover them. This means that you must know that they were not the aggressor, or the person who started the fight; and you must know that they did not escalate the situation.
  3. No greater force than necessary is used.

    There are two prongs to this element. First, you may not escalate the level of force. This means that you cannot turn a fist-fight into a shootout. If the aggressor uses non-deadly force you cannot use deadly force in response. However, if the aggressor uses deadly force, you can respond with deadly force. Some common examples of deadly weapons or deadly force are; guns, knives, and vehicles. Some common examples of non-deadly force are hands and certain other items such as a taser or pepper spray. It is important to know here that words are NEVER enough to escalate the altercation to the use of deadly force.

    Second, once you decide to use deadly force you must stop when the threat is ended. This is very important. North Carolina is NOT a shoot to kill state, instead we only allow the use of deadly force to be used to the point that the threat is ended. For example, you see someone who is being chased by an aggressor with a knife, if you shoot that aggressor and he falls over and is no longer chasing the victim, then the threat is over and you cannot continue to shoot. Not stopping at the end of the threat will likely lead to you facing criminal charges for assault or worse, murder.

What happens if I am found to be covered by the defense of others?

Similar to the doctrine of self-defense, the defense of others is a complete bar to liability. This means that if you are found to have used self-defense in the defense of others, you cannot be found criminally or civilly liable for the actions undertaken to save the person’s life.

What happens if I made a mistake?

If you find yourself in a position where you used self-defense or you used force to defend someone else, it is vitally important to speak with a knowledgeable attorney as quickly as possible. What you do and what you say could make the difference between going home to your family at the end of the experience or going to prison. If you stray beyond the bounds of the defense of others while using force to protect someone, you very well may find yourself arrested and charged with a crime.

The Defense of Others is a very complicated legal defense that requires not only an examination of your actions but of the situation as a whole, if you have found yourself charged with a crime or have recently had to defend someone else’s life from deadly force, call the experienced criminal defense team at Jetton and Meredith today.