Common Questions in Self-Defense and North Carolina’s Stand Your Ground Law


One of the most serious set of circumstances that someone may find themselves in, is when they need to use deadly force to defend themselves or someone they love. While these situations may seem very cut and dry, the specific rules for using any level of force to defend yourself or someone else must be strictly adhered to in order to maintain the legal protections and immunities that are commonly thought of when discussing self-defense. One of the most important rules to know in these situations is what is commonly called the “stand your ground” law.

What Is Self-Defense in a Legal Proceeding?

The defense of self-defense is an affirmative defense in North Carolina. This means that if you plan on using this as a defense in court, the burden to prove that your actions were self-defense falls on you. This is not the same as we have seen in many high-profile cases across the country, however, in North Carolina you must put on evidence and prove that your actions fall under the protections of self-defense.

When Can I Use Force to Defend Myself?

Under North Carolina law, the use of force is authorized in the defense of self or others under the following circumstances:

  • The person seeking to use self-defense was not the aggressor.
    • This means that you did not start the confrontation, and that you did not turn the confrontation from verbal to physical.
  • The person seeking to use self-defense had a reasonable belief that the use of force was necessary to prevent great bodily harm or imminent death to themselves.
    • Reasonableness when discussing self-defense is broken down into two categories: subjective, or your own belief that your actions were reasonable and necessary; and objective, for this North Carolina uses the reasonably prudent person standard. This reasonably prudent person standard can be easily summed up as what do you think the average person would find to be reasonable. Here the jurors will be asked what they think the average person would do, not necessarily what they would have done themselves.
  • The person seeking to use self-defense only used that level of force that was reasonable and did not escalate the situation to a higher level of force needed.
    • This is an important element to North Carolina self-defense claims. In North Carolina, you must “match” forces. This means that in order to use physical force, you must be presented with physical force; and at the same time, in order to use deadly force, the threat you are facing must be that of deadly force. For example, if your attacker is using a fly-swatter, you cannot use a firearm to defend yourself.

What Is the Stand Your Ground Law?

Simply put, North Carolina’s stand your ground law says that you do not have a duty to retreat from a place that you have a lawful right to be present in. This means that if you are walking down the sidewalk in a public place, and you are not violating any laws by simply being present in that space, and someone attacks you, you do not have to run away before exercising your right to defend yourself. This also means that exercising your right to self defense does not have to be the very last chance option that you use.

Self-Defense cases are some of the most difficult in the North Carolina justice system. If you or someone you know is facing charges for a violent crime in a situation that they used force to defend themselves, call the Criminal Defense team at Jetton and Meredith today: (704) 931-5535.