Can I Plead Self-Defense?

Assault, even assault without injury, is a very serious crime in North Carolina. There are several defenses available, including the doctrine of self-defense or defense of others. North Carolina has a Stand Your Ground law, which makes it easier for Raleigh assault lawyers to establish this doctrine in court and prevent the consequences of an assault conviction.

NC Legislation

N.C.G.S. § 14-51.3 states that people are justified in using deadly force to protect themselves or others. Furthermore, under this version of the law, defendants do not have a duty to retreat before using deadly force. The actors must lawfully be in that place at that time, and the actors must reasonably believe deadly force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to themselves or other individuals. The actor could be at home, at work, in a vehicle, or any other place. Location does not matter, as long as a Raleigh assault lawyer establishes the other elements. This same basic rule applies in other situations as well.

Self-Defense in Action

Assume Fred takes a swing at Mike while the two of them are in a local bar. Mike probably could not use deadly force to stop the attack, but he could use any amount of force he deems reasonable. However, if Fred brandished a knife, Mike could use deadly force. He could even use a gun, if he believed that amount of force was reasonably necessary to stop the attack. In either scenario, Mike does not have a duty to retreat or try to talk things out before he uses force.

The Legal Framework

Form a legal perspective, self-defense is a tricky doctrine. Since it is an affirmative defense, Mike must admit that he assaulted Fred before he can assert this defense. In other words, Mike states, in court, that he attacked Fred and intended to harm him. However, Mike’s Raleigh assault lawyer may argue that Mike’s attack was justified, because:

  • He was not the aggressor
  • His use of force was reasonable
  • He did not pursue the attacker after using self-defense
  • There was no intent to kill; there was only intent to defend

Speak With an Assault Attorney

If you face criminal charges, speak to one of our skilled Raleigh assault lawyers about your case as soon as possible. At Sandman, Finn & Fitzhugh, Attorneys at Law, we have more than 50 years of legal experience to offer. You can count on us to defend your rights and freedoms. Contact us at