Is Self-Defense Considered Assault in North Carolina?

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Many North Carolinians mistakenly believe that they have a right to self-defense any time they are attacked or provoked by another individual. While self-defense can be justifiable under certain circumstances, “defending” yourself could still be considered assault in North Carolina.

bullet-casings-Charlotte-Monroe-Mooresville-Self-Defense-Lawyer-300x200For this reason, it is essential to understand your rights to protect yourself against attacks. Otherwise, your self-defense could get you in trouble with the law in North Carolina, and you could be charged with assault or other even more serious charges.

Speak with our criminal defense attorneys if you or your loved one was charged with assault for acting in self-defense. Contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC at 704-370-2828 for a free initial consultation.


Does North Carolina Have a Stand Your Ground law?

Yes, it does. Before the state officially implemented its Stand Your Ground law on December 1, 2011, the law required residents to first run away or otherwise try to escape an attack before using deadly force to protect themselves.

Failure to comply with the law would have resulted in assault charges for acting in self-defense without trying to retreat from an attack. However, the Stand Your Ground law changed everything. The law removed the residents’ duty to retreat from attacks before allowing them to use reasonable force to protect themselves.

What constitutes “a reasonable amount of force” is determined on a case-by-case basis.


When is Reasonable Force Justifiable in North Carolina?

Under N.C.G.S. §14‑51.3, the use of a reasonable amount of force is justifiable when:

  • A person has a reasonable belief that the use of force is necessary to protect themselves, their family member, or another person against an attacker’s “use of unlawful force.”
  • A person has a reasonable belief that it is necessary to use force in order to stop an imminent attack that can cause serious bodily harm or death.
  • An attacker unlawfully entered or attempted to forcefully enter a person’s home, motor vehicle, or place of employment.


When You Can be Charged With Assault for Self-Defense

If you fail to prove that the use of self-defense was justifiable under North Carolina’s Stand Your Ground law, you could be charged with assault for using force against another individual in the following situations:

  • Using force against a law enforcement officer or bail bondsperson who is performing their official duties, provided that you knew or reasonably should have been aware of their identity.
  • Using an unreasonable amount of force (excessive or deadly) under the given circumstances.
  • Using deadly force when you or another person is not actually in imminent danger of severe bodily injury or death.
  • Using force against someone in a place where they are lawfully present (home, workplace, motor vehicle).
  • Using deadly force against a person who has stopped attempting to forcefully and unlawfully enter into your home, motor vehicle, or place of employment.

While North Carolina’s Stand Your Ground law allows you to use a reasonable amount of force in self-defense, you could still be charged with assault if you cannot prove that the use of force was justifiable and within reason.

If you or your loved one is facing assault charges for acting in self-defense, do not hesitate to contact our North Carolina criminal defense lawyers at Arnold & Smith, PLLC. Get a phone or video consultation by calling at (704) 370-2828 to speak with our detail-oriented and well-versed lawyers with offices in Charlotte, Lake Norman, and Monroe, please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today or find additional resources here.







The criminal defense attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC make it their mission to zealously defend their clients on a wide range of criminal matters at both the state and federal levels. These matters may include any charge from traffic offenses; DWI/DUI; drug charges (from simple possession to possession with intent to distribute and trafficking); gun permit denials; weapons offenses; and property crimes (larceny, breaking and entering, robbery, fraud, embezzlement, white collar offenses); to sexually related offenses (indecent exposure; sexual assault, crimes against nature, removal from sex offender registry); and violent crimes (domestic violence; assault; manslaughter; homicide, murder). Other legal issues that Arnold & Smith, PLLC criminal clients may be facing include restraining orders, restraining order and probation violations, expungements; appeals; and immigration issues related to criminal charges. Our criminal defense attorneys are passionate about ensuring that individuals empower themselves by being informed about their constitutional rights, and stand at the ready to fight in the defense of those facing criminal charges.





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