Attorney J. Bradley Smith answering the question: “Is there more than one way for police to convict a DWI?”
In light of the recent controversial decision in the Trayvon Martin case, many people have been discussing the self-defense laws on the books in other states and some may wonder what exactly the law is for those in North Carolina. As of December 1, 2011, North Carolina officially implemented it’s own “Stand Your Ground” law. So what exactly does this mean, keep reading to find out.
The Stand Your Ground law in Florida became a critical component of the recent trial of George Zimmerman who shot and killed Trayvon Martin in February of 2012. Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder in the death of the teen, but argued that he acted in self-defense and should be exempt from prosecution under the state’s Stand Your Ground law. Since his acquittal, many have wondered whether similar arguments could be made if the incident had happened in North Carolina rather than Florida. Though the two states’ laws are not identical, they are very close and the result may have turned out much the same.
Stand Your Ground laws exist in at least 25 states, including North Carolina and Florida. They are not always called the same thing, others are referred to as “Shoot First” laws but they mean essentially the same thing. North Carolina General Statutes Section 14-51.3 says that a person is justified using deadly force and does not first have the duty to retreat in two situations: 1) he or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to yourself or others; or 2) you are located in your home, office or car and fear for your life or the life of another person.
The second provision in North Carolina’s Stand Your Ground law is known as the Castle Doctrine, which says that a person’s home is their castle and they should be allowed to defend it against any threat from an intruder. The law also includes several exceptions to the use of deadly force, meaning there is no legal right to use deadly force against the following people: law enforcement officers, bail bondsmen or landlords and others who have a legal right to be on the same property as you. The law also makes clear that if a person retreats or stops all threatening behavior; the use of deadly force may not be appropriate if the threat is no longer imminent.
So you might be wondering, how is this different from plain old self-defense? The difference is actually a big one. Prior to the creation of Stand Your Ground laws, individuals had a duty to retreat before being justified in using deadly force against an attacker. This mean that if there was a way to escape and avoid a confrontation you were legally obligated to do so or face criminal charges. Stand Your Ground laws mean that individuals are no longer required to retreat before using deadly force.
Arnold & Smith, PLLC is a Charlotte based criminal defense, traffic violation defense and civil litigation law firm servicing Charlotte and the surrounding area. If you or someone you know need legal assistance, please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today at (704) 370-2828.
About the Author:
Brad Smith is a Managing Member with Arnold & Smith, PLLC where he focuses on the areas of criminal defense, DUI / DWI defense and traffic defense. Mr. Smith began his legal career in Charlotte, North Carolina as an Assistant District Attorney. In 2006, he entered private practice focusing almost entirely on criminal defense.
Born and raised in Charlotte, Mr. Smith is married with one son and one daughter. In his free time, he enjoys traveling, boating, golf and hiking near his mountain home in western North Carolina.
“Where NC falls on self-defense laws,” published at NewsObserver.com.
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