Over the last decade there has been a heightened level of attention to nationwide self-defense laws. Self-defense laws can be described as laws articulating a person’s rights to defend themselves when they feel their life or the life of another person is threatened. These types of events and interpretations of laws are often complicated given the nature of the events leading up to the incident. They also vary state-to-state and legislation and state appellate court interpretations can sometimes change large and small details of what constitutes self-defense.
Generally, there are broad definitions and standards that apply to self-defense laws throughout the country – including South Carolina. Self-defense, ‘stand your ground’ and ‘castle-doctrine’ laws share some similarities. Here is a quick breakdown:
- In South Carolina, to claim self-defense you must prove that you did not bring on the difficulty (i.e. you can’t claim self-defense if you provoked the attack); you had a reasonable fear of injury or death; an ordinary person in the same situation would have the same fear of injury or death; and there was no other way to avoid the danger.
- Duty to Retreat:
- In some states, including South Carolina, a person is required to leave or avoid a dangerous situation if possible and not engage themselves unless there is an immediate threat. The use of force, including deadly force, is only permissible if there are no other probable means to avoid the danger. This is known as the duty to retreat and can defeat a claim of self-defense in most cases.
- Stand Your Ground:
- South Carolina is a ‘Stand Your Ground’ state; meaning in South Carolina if you are under attack in your home, your vehicle, your place of business, or anywhere else you have a right to be, and have a reasonable fear of imminent injury or death, you can use force, including deadly force, to protect yourself (or others) without having a duty to retreat.
Why Self-Defense Laws Matter in South Carolina:
The laws of self-defense in a criminal case are unlike any other criminal matter. Self-defense cases are the only cases where the person charged with a crime has the burden of proving their case. In South Carolina, the laws of self-defense (codified in the Protection of Persons and Property Act) are important to understand because in certain cases they allow immunity from criminal prosecution and can be the difference in whether your charges are dismissed or taken to trial.
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