Good day, Mark Edwards here. Today I want to outline the important differences between the law of self-defense and Castle Doctrine defense in North Carolina.

In North Carolina, a person may use deadly force or threaten the use of deadly force against another if they reasonably believe that such force is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself, herself, or another. If the person who uses deadly force is charged with a crime, their use of force will be judged under a “reasonable person” standard. In other words, the fact finder (be that a judge or a jury) will decide if the person’s use of force was objectively reasonable.

So, it is not enough that the person using the force subjectively felt they were under imminent threat of death or great bodily injury; it is what a “reasonable” person would have believed under those same circumstances.

Presumptions

When a person is in their castle, the Castle Doctrine gives that person two important presumptions. A “presumption” is a rule of law, by which the finding of a basic fact gives rise to the existence of the presuming fact, unless and until the presumption is rebutted.

The first presumption is that the lawful occupant of a home, motor vehicle, or workplace is presumed to have a reasonable fear of imminent death or great bodily harm when using defensive force that is likely to or intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to another, if the following two conditions apply:

  1. The person against whom the force is used was in the process of unlawfully and forcibly entering, or had unlawfully and forcibly entered, a home, motor vehicle, or workplace, or if that person was attempting to kidnap someone from the home, motor vehicle, or workplace.
  2. The person using defensive force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry or an unlawful and forcible act was occurring or had occurred.

The second presumption is that the person who unlawfully or by force enters or attempts to enter your home, occupied vehicle, or workplace is doing so with the intent to commit an unlawful act involving force or violence.

The importance of these presumptions cannot be overstated.

What Constitutes a “Castle” in North Carolina?

A home, a motor vehicle, and one’s workplace. These places, or “castles,” are specifically defined in the North Carolina General Statutes.

It is important to note that the Castle Doctrine presumptions can be overcome. Also, the statute specifically excludes the applicability of the presumptions against certain enumerated persons, and it is inapplicable if the person using the force is engaged in criminal conduct.

For any questions regarding self-defense issues in the State of North Carolina, contact U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.


The preceding should not be construed as legal advice nor the creation of an attorney-client relationship. This is not an endorsement or solicitation for any service. Your situation may be different, so please contact your attorney regarding your specific circumstances. Because the laws, judges, juries, and prosecutors vary from location to location, similar or even identical facts and circumstances to those described in this presentation may result in significantly different legal outcomes. This presentation is by no means a guarantee or promise of any particular legal outcome, positive, negative, or otherwise.