Defense of Property Claim in North Carolina


In North Carolina, a person charged with a crime has numerous ways to fight against that charge. One of those ways is through the use of an Affirmative Defense. An Affirmative Defense is a defense in which the defendant introduces evidence at trial to justify the reasoning for allegedly committing the crime. As you have seen in the movies and T.V. shows, the State has the burden of proving that a person committed a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. However, when a defendant wants to use an affirmative defense, they must put on evidence to show that their actions are justified under the law. Furthermore, the State has a duty to prove that the defendant’s facts do not exist and do not meet any elements of that defense. At Jetton and Meredith, we have a criminal defense team that is experienced with handling any and all criminal charges. If you are facing criminal charges, it is extremely difficult to tackle what defense claims or arguments you have. It is crucial to call immediately and speak to one of our attorneys at 704.333.1114.

Defense of Property

One of the most common affirmative defenses in North Carolina is through the Defense of Property. Even if the State finds beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed a crime, that crime could be justified through the Defense of Property affirmative defense.

In North Carolina, if you are the rightful owner of the real or personal property then you have the right to possess that property. Real property is an immovable property like land or buildings or for example, a home. Personal property is property that is movable like laptops, cars, or clothes. With your right to possess the property, an owner or their authorized agent may use reasonably necessary force to protect that property. However, the use of force in this affirmative defense cannot arise to the level to inflict death, endangering human life, or causing great bodily harm.


In order for the crime to be justified by the use of an affirmative defense like the Defense of Property, these elements must be proven:

  1. The defendant charged with the crime was in possession of (named property) as either its owner, an agent of its owner or an employee of its owner;
  2. The defendant reasonably believed that the plaintiff was about to either injure, destroy, or unlawfully take the (named property);
  3. To prevent the other party from injuring, destroying, or unlawfully taking (named property), the defendant reasonably believed he had to use force; and
  4. The defendant used no more force against the other party than was reasonably necessary under the circumstances to prevent injury, destruction, or unlawful taking of (named property).

What is Reasonable Force?

In the eyes of the North Carolina Supreme Court, a person has the legal right to defend and protect it from threatened and immediate injury or destruction at the hands of an aggressor, or if it is personal property, to prevent it from being unlawfully taken, injured, or destroyed by another, and in doing so he(you) may use such force as is reasonably necessary, and no more than is reasonably necessary to accomplish that end. The circumstances in each case are different which causes the determination of that force to be left up to the jury or the judge. However, it must be noted that mere suspicion or fear of encroachment is not justification for the use of force.

Difference between protecting your property and protecting yourself when you are inside the property.

Deadly force is not allowed to defend your real or personal property. The force that is required to protect against someone injuring, destroying, or taking your property is a reasonable force that does not cause death, endanger human life, or cause great bodily harm. However, deadly force is allowed to be used to defend your home or residence when (1) the occupant reasonably believes such force is necessary to forcible entry or eliminate an unlawful entry by an intruder; and (2) the occupant reasonably believes that the intruder will kill or inflict serious bodily injury on the occupant or others in the home, or (3) occupant reasonably believes that the intruder will commit a felony in the home.

These defenses can be tricky to maneuver without the help of an experienced, criminal defense lawyer – our criminal team can help you. Give us a call for a free consultation, at 704.333.1114.