South Carolinians have the right to defend themselves against individuals attempting to kill or inflict serious bodily injury upon them. But this doesn’t mean that a person who acts in self-defense won’t be criminally charged.
If you or a loved one hurt or killed somebody in self-defense, you need to understand your legal rights under the stand your ground law. Retaining a skilled Greenville, SC criminal defense attorney will help. Boatright Legal is here for you.
Proving Self-Defense in South Carolina
South Carolina common law affords citizens the right to defend themselves. This includes the use of deadly force if necessary. But the individual who defends him- or herself in this manner must prove the following:
- The individual did not start the fight. Basically, the confrontation cannot be the fault of whoever is claiming self-defense. This may include escalating a confrontation.
- The individual feared for his or her safety or his life. In other words, the individual must have believed he or she would be seriously injured or killed. This fear must be one that a reasonable person in the same situation would have felt.
At one point, a would-be victim had the duty to retreat. Only if that person could not avoid the use of force was it permitted in self-defense. However, South Carolina has effectively abolished this requirement with its stand your ground law.
The Basics of “Stand Your Ground” in South Carolina
South Carolina’s stand your ground law is contained in the “Protection of Persons and Property Act.” Under this law, a person can use self-defense, even lethal force, in certain situations. The assailant against whom force is used must unlawfully and forcefully enter a home or occupied vehicle.
Alternatively, the assailant can be trying to remove the person from a home or vehicle against his or her will. The law as written doesn’t seem to require that the would-be victim be in their own home or vehicle. They just have to be lawfully in someone’s home or vehicle.
Homes and vehicles aren’t the only places where this legal doctrine operates. Generally, if you aren’t doing anything illegal and you’re attacked, you can stand your ground. The above self-defense principles still apply. But you don’t have to retreat, and can even use force if you are out in public. You can be at your place of business, on the sidewalk, and in other places and defend yourself with force.
When Stand Your Ground Does Not Apply
A Greenville, SC criminal defense lawyer can review the circumstances of your case and advise as to your self-defense rights. There are cases, however, in which the protections of the law will not apply. For example, the stand your ground law probably won’t protect you in the following situations.
- The person entering your home or car is a law enforcement officer. The officer must be performing his or her official duties. Also, the person using force in self-defense must know or reasonably know the intruder is an officer.
- The alleged intruder has a right to be on the property or occupied vehicle. This would include a resident, owner, tenant, or property titleholder. Also, if you invite someone to your property or in your car and later remove them, self-defense becomes more complicated.
- You were doing something illegal or using the property to do something illegal. If you were breaking the law at the time you engaged in self-defense, your argument may not work. One example may be conducting a drug deal in your house when you acted in self-defense.
Making Your Strongest Criminal Defense Case in Greenville, SC
There are other nuances to the law that may apply to your exact situation. If you’ve been accused of illegally defending yourself with force, your rights could be in jeopardy. You may be facing serious jail time and other criminal penalties.
For that reason, it’s critical that you retain a skilled Greenville, SC criminal defense attorney. Give Boatright Legal a call today.