Assault or Self-Defense?

From a distance, assault and self-defense might look incredibly similar. In North Carolina, assault is defined as when someone threatens to cause or actually causes injury to another person. Self-defense could be interpreted as almost the same thing, but the intent behind the damage is different. North Carolina’s Stand Your Ground law protects citizens from being prosecuted for defending themselves or another person from an attack.

The Stand Your Ground law (N.C.G.S. § 14-51.3) states a person is justified in using deadly force and doesn’t have a duty to retreat in any place he or she has a right to be if he or she reasonably believes such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another person. Alternatively, the person standing their ground could also be in their home, workplace, or car and in fear for his or her or another’s life.

So, for example, if you’re in a bar lawfully and a drunk person throws a punch at you, you are allowed to defend yourself against the attack. However, the force you use against the other person must be “reasonable.” One punch might not necessarily indicate an attack against your life, but if the person draws a knife out during the attack, you can use all reasonable force to prevent that person from harming you or someone in the immediate area.

If you’re facing a charge of assault, pleading self-defense is an affirmative defense, meaning you admit you attacked or caused harm to another person; however, you were justified in causing that injury to protect yourself or another. To use self-defense as a defense, you must meet the following criteria:

  • You must not have been the aggressor.
  • You must have used reasonable force.
  • You must not have continued to pursue the other person after he or she retreated.
  • You must not have had an intent to kill, just a plan to defend yourself or another.

Talk to one of our skilled Raleigh assault lawyers about your case as soon as possible. Sandman, Finn & Fitzhugh has more than 50 years of legal experience to offer your case. Let us see what we can do to defend your rights and freedom.

Contact us at (919) 887-8040 or fill out our online form to schedule your free case consultation today.


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