Self-Defense, Intent, and Duty to Retreat in North Carolina

Charlotte Criminal Lawyer Brad Smith answers the question: “What are the long term effects of being convicted of a crime?”


Being in a situation fearing for your life and/or safety is not a place many people want to be. Anyone who has been in that situation will tell you about the fear and stress that is caused. Everyone reacts to an emergency situation differently, but one of the most common responses is to defend yourself. In the event that criminal charges are brought against someone who was protecting him or herself from a dangerous situation, one would think using the defense of self defense in court would be a given. However, self-defense includes many other issues and each case must be looked at independently.


flat-tire-Charlotte-Monroe-Lake-Norman-Criminal-Defense-Criminal-Attorney-225x300The best way to illustrate self-defense in North Carolina is through a recent case. In State v. Ayers, the defendant was driving down a two-lane country road. Another vehicle began driving within a few feet of the defendant’s bumper, tailgating him. The other driver tries to pass the defendant, fails, and resumes tailgating him. At this point, cars in front of the defendant turned so he slowed down so the driver behind him could pass him. Instead of passing the defendant, the other driver tailgated the defendant for several miles. Things escalated when the other driver pulled up next to the defendant and veered into the defendant’s lane; forcing the defendant’s passenger-side tires to go off of the road. The defendant felt threatened at this point so he pulled out his pistol, which he possessed lawfully, and shot the other driver’s tire. The defendant was then able to drive away. The defendant was charged with shooting an operating and occupied vehicle, a general intent crime.


During trial, the jury was given the self-defense instructions, which included information about the duty to retreat. The jury found the defendant guilty, but the judge suspended the sentence. On appeal, the defendant argued that the jury should have been instructed that there was no duty to retreat. The prosecution tried to argue that the defendant could not “stand his ground” since he was in a moving vehicle.


To determine the issue of duty to retreat, the appeals court first looked at whether the self-defense instruction was correct. The court found that the defendant did not need to have a lethal intent to kill, but instead only a “general intent to strike the blow.” The instruction of self-defense was correct. Turning to the duty to retreat, the court found that the defendant did not have a duty to retreat on a public highway. Each case is unique and the instructions given to the jury must reflect that. The court stated that “self-preservation is the most basic and fundamental natural right any individual possesses.” Jury’s must be given proper instructions so that they can come to a conclusion with the proper facts.


If you have been charged with a crime after defending yourself, the criminal defense attorneys are here to help you. We know that sometimes you have to defend yourself to remain safe. Our attorneys work tirelessly to ensure that every applicable defense is used and fight for proper jury instructions. Contact us today for a consultation. If you find yourself facing criminal charges and need the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney in or around Charlotte, Lake Norman, or our new office in Monroe (by appointment only until 2019), please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today at (704) 370-2828 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.





Image Credit:



See Our Related Video from our YouTube channel:



See Our Related Blog Posts:

The Importance of Proper Jury Instructions

Justification as a Defense for Felons Using a Firearm

Contact Information