Everyone knows that there is a legal right to defend yourself if you are attacked – but, what are the rules for self defense in SC?
If you get it wrong, you could be arrested, jailed, and even convicted for assault and battery or even murder charges – that is why it is important for every person to understand the rules for self defense in SC.
Hopefully, you will never be in a situation where you must defend yourself from an attack. But, it happens. When it happens, how will you react?
Can you kill a person in self defense?
Does it matter where you are – are the rules different if you are attacked on the street, in your car, or in your home?
What if someone else is being attacked and you want to help them? Although the rules for self defense in SC can be confusing, I’ll answer these questions and more below…
What are the Elements of Self Defense in SC?
Although there are several laws that outline the rules for self defense in SC, the starting point for understanding them is SC’s common law rules for self defense.
In SC, you have a right to defend yourself, up to and including the use of deadly force, when:
- The “difficulty” was not your fault – if you antagonized the attacker or engaged in mutual combat, you cannot later claim self defense;
- You feared that you would be killed or seriously injured;
- That fear was reasonable – a reasonable person in your shoes would have felt the same way; and
- There was no practical way to avoid the danger without resorting to violence.
In most SC self defense cases today, the fourth requirement – called the “duty to retreat” – no longer applies under SC’s “stand your ground” law, or the SC Protection of Persons and Property Act.
The Rules of Self-Defense and SC’s Stand Your Ground Law
SC’s stand your ground law changed the rules for self defense in SC in a few very important ways – it “codified” the Castle Doctrine and extended the common-sense rules of the Castle Doctrine to situations where a person is not in their home.
The Castle Doctrine in SC
Before the passage of SC’s stand your ground law, the elements of self defense described above applied wherever a person was attacked except in their own home.
The main difference between the rules for self defense in SC on the street and the rules for self defense in SC in a person’s home used to be whether there was a duty to retreat before defending yourself.
A person’s home is their castle – no one should be required to retreat from their own home instead of defending themselves and their property.
Under the Castle Doctrine (and now SC’s stand your ground law), it is presumed that a homeowner will have a reasonable fear of death or great bodily injury if someone is illegally entering their home, and there is no duty to retreat.
SC Protection of Persons and Property Act
The Protection of Persons and Property Act, found at SC Code Section 16-11-410, allows a defendant to ask for a pretrial hearing where the court, after hearing the evidence, determines whether self defense or the Act applies, and, if the defendant proves self defense to the court by a preponderance of the evidence, the court must give immunity to the defendant and dismiss the charges.
If someone is unlawfully or forcibly entering a dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle, it is now presumed that the occupants will have a reasonable fear of death or great bodily injury and the occupants are entitled to use deadly force to defend themselves:
(A) A person is presumed to have a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily injury to himself or another person when using deadly force that is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily injury to another person if the person:
(1) against whom the deadly force is used is in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering, or has unlawfully and forcibly entered a dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle, or if he removes or is attempting to remove another person against his will from the dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle; and
(2) who uses deadly force knows or has reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry or unlawful and forcible act is occurring or has occurred.
It doesn’t just apply to dwellings, residences, and vehicles – under SC’s stand your ground law, you have a right to defend yourself, without retreating, if you are attacked in any place where you have a legal right to be and if it is reasonably necessary to prevent death or great bodily injury to yourself or another person.
Defense of Others in SC
The SC Protection of Persons and Property Act also codified the common law defense of “defense of others.”
If you witness another person who is being attacked, and if they have the right to defend themselves under the rules of self defense in SC, then you also have the right to step in and defend that person.
Under the Protection of Persons and Property Act, there is no duty to retreat and you can act to defend another person who is being attacked anywhere they have a legal right to be…
Who Has the Burden of Proof for Self Defense in SC?
At a pretrial immunity hearing, the burden of proof is on the defendant to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that self defense or the Act applies. If the court denies immunity, however, the defendant can still argue self defense, and the burden of proof is on the prosecution to disprove the elements of self defense beyond any reasonable doubt.
SC Self Defense Lawyers in Myrtle Beach
The SC criminal defense lawyers at Coastal Law will investigate your case and raise all possible defenses as we work on getting your case dismissed and prepare it for trial, including self defense, defense of others, and immunity under the SC Protection of Persons and Property Act.
If you’ve been charged with a crime in SC, call now at (843) 488-5000 or send us an inquiry through our website to talk with a Myrtle Beach criminal defense lawyer today.