Self Defense Laws in North Carolina: What You Need to Know (2023)

It's no secret that the world can be a dangerous place, and sometimes we are confronted with these dangers at times when split-second decisions can mean the difference between life and death. Understanding what constitutes self-defense and what the legal rights of self-defense are is important for all North Carolina residents.

Read on to learn more about your legal rights in a variety of circumstances that may require the use of force to protect and defend you and your family in North Carolina.

If you find yourself in a self-defence situation in North Carolina, ensure your rights are protected by contacting aReliable Firearms Lawyer in Raleigh.

Is self defense legal in NC?

Self-defense is a countermeasure to protect yourself, another person or your property with the reasonable use of force. North Carolina is a Stand Your Ground state that allows an individual to commit a violent act of self-defense under certain circumstances.

(Video) For the Record: What are my self-defense rights in North Carolina?

No one should be put at risk without knowing their legal rights. Imagine using excessive force to avoid grievous bodily harm, only to find out later that you are the person being sued because your actions are not protected by North Carolina law.

Each circumstance or anecdote from self-defense cases is unique. There are few ways to truly prepare yourself for the imminent danger or possible death that can occur when you cross paths with a criminal or victim of crime. Being armed with the knowledge of self-defense law and what protects you to act with such force is invaluable in preventing serious bodily harm and serious bodily harm.

What are the 3 requirements of self-defense?

While it is legal to protect yourself in North Carolina, the laws clearly state the circumstances under which self-defense is legal. It is best to review the important aspects of self-defense laws described inNCGS Sections 14-51.3and get legal advice if you have any questions.

There are three elements of self-defense as defined by law. Be classified as self-defense, acceptable under the law, and avoid prosecution. It must be shown that the accused or the person claiming self-defence believed during the time that force was used:

(Video) Six Things YOU DO That Gets You Arrested After a Self Defense Shooting

  1. There was imminent danger to you, others or your property.
  2. Reasonable use of force was necessary to avoid harm.
  3. Only the force necessary to avoid damage was used.

Who bears the burden of proof in North Carolina self-defense?

In the North Carolina Criminal Court, the burden of proof to determine whether the self-defense was conducted lawfully and with reasonable force rests with the state, also known as the prosecution. To obtain a guilty verdict against the accused, prosecutors must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused used unlawful or unfair force.

Prosecutors can also demonstrate that the defendant was the original aggressor or used force that was excessive and beyond what was reasonably necessary for their own protection. The final instance where prosecutors would have a solid basis for a conviction and put the defendant at risk of serving time in self-defense is when the coercive act is committed against a police officer or law enforcement officer.

Finding capable and experienced criminal defense attorneys to discuss the confidential or sensitive information in your case is important in planning your defense against the state. If you have recently used self-defense to protect yourself, your loved ones or property from unlawful and violent intrusion or unlawful violence, contact theCoolidge Law Firmfor a free consultation.

The Stand Your Ground Laws of Carolina do Norte

All states have laws that describe what is considered reasonable self-defense. North Carolina is a Stand Your Ground state, which means that residents have the legal right to use force when faced with a reasonable fear of threatening behavior. There are defensive laws for the use of lethal and non-lethal force, but even the states that pass these laws have restrictions.


Important laws related to stand-your-ground laws for North Carolinans:

  • Lei GS 14-51.2: A person who enters or attempts to enter an individual's home, automobile, or workplace, illegally or by force, is suspected of doing so with the intent to commit an illegal act by force or violence.
  • Lei GS 14-51.3: A person has the right to use force against another person if and to the extent that person reasonably believes that action is necessary to prevent the imminent use of unlawful force by the other person.
  • Lei GS 14-51.4: A person does not have the right to use force because they were the aggressor, committed a crime at the time force was used, or force was used against a protected person such as police officers.

What is the difference between "stand up" and self-defense?

Even if you hold your ground, a thorough investigation will be carried out to ensure that the threat of harm alleged in the use of lethal force or protection from serious bodily harm is reasonable. While a person is allowed to protect their home if an intruder breaks in or the use of lethal force prevents imminent death, it is important to understand the nuances between self-defense, defending your position, and castle doctrine.

There are three categories of self-defense laws that vary from state to state:

  • Withdrawal obligation:A person who fears imminent threat or death should try to retreat or flee the situation before doing any harm. Because North Carolina law gives a person the right to defend his or her position, the obligation to withdraw is not enacted by the state.
  • Man up:In North Carolina, there is no legal restriction that says you have to retreat, so a person can use lethal force or an act of defense that could seriously injure someone. The right to defend your position is not limited to the home, workplace or motor vehicle when the defense is to prevent imminent death or serious bodily harm.
  • lock gauge:With a legal right to protect himself and his property, castle doctrine defense laws allow a lawful occupant of a residence or business to use force to defend his person.

When can you use deadly force in self-defense in North Carolina?

The use of lethal force should be the absolute last resort for anyone, even if it is an act of self-defense. However, there are some cases where the use of lethal force is considered a legal and justifiable defense.

(Video) Castle Doctrine Law in North Carolina

The appropriate and justifiable use of lethal force in self-defense means:

  • You had the legal right to be on site at the time of the event.
  • They believed that this level of violence was necessary to prevent physical injury or death to you or someone else.

Unlawful violence and unwarranted acts of deadly force that do not give you the legal right to use deadly force:

  • The individual has a legal right to be at home, at work or in a vehicle and there is no written statutory order prohibiting him from being there.
  • The other person stopped entering the home, workplace, or vehicle before fatal force was applied to them.
  • The person who used deadly force was the attacker in the situation.

Contact the Coolidge Law Firm if you are involved in a self-defense incident

We are here to help you navigate any question or issue related to your self-defense case. OurCriminal Lawyers in Raleigh, NCthey are usually able to dismiss criminal cases before they end up in front of a judge and can help you understand the laws of defense before you reach a North Carolina courthouse.

If necessary, call the Coolidge Law Office at (919) 239-8448 or fill out the form below to contact our law firm and schedule a free consultation.

(Video) 3 Things You Should NEVER Do After a Self Defense Shooting



What are the self-defense laws in NC? ›

Self defense in NC is authorized in instances of unlawful entry into one's home, vehicle, or place of employment. Both Self Defense and the defense are subject to a “reasonableness” standard. The fear of immediate harm to others or to yourself must be reasonable.

What are the 3 requisites of self-defense? ›

In order to invoke self-defense, certain conditions must be met such as unlawful aggression, reasonable necessity of the means employed to prevent or repel it, and lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the person defending himself.

Who has the burden of proof in NC for self-defense? ›

Who has the burden of proof in self-defense in North Carolina? In North Carolina criminal court, the burden of proof to determine whether self-defense was enacted lawfully and with reasonable force falls on the shoulders of the State, otherwise known as the Prosecution.

What self-defense weapons are legal in North Carolina? ›

North Carolina laws state that it is legal to carry pepper spray and stun guns for the purposes of self defense.

What is acceptable self defense? ›

"A person may use such force as is reasonable in the circumstances in the prevention of crime, or in effecting or assisting in the lawful arrest of offenders or suspected offenders or of persons unlawfully at large."

What is the rule of self defense? ›

It refers to the use of force to repel an attack or imminent threat of attack directed against oneself or others or a legally protected interest. Self-defense in international law refers to the inherent right of a State to use of force in response to an armed attack.

How is self-defense proven? ›

In order for the defense to be successful, you must establish: You reasonably believed the other person was in imminent danger; You reasonably believed that the use of reasonable force was necessary to prevent harm; and. You only used the amount of force necessary to prevent harm.

What is the #1 rule of self-defense? ›

FIRST: You must have a reasonable belief that your'e being attacked or about to be attacked. SECOND: Unless you are in your home, you must try to retreat (i.e., run away) before you can defend yourself. In other words, you need to try to retreat or run away or get away in any way you can, until you can't.

What is the first rule of self-defense? ›

Four elements are required for self-defense: (1) an unprovoked attack, (2) which threatens imminent injury or death, and (3) an objectively reasonable degree of force, used in response to (4) an objectively reasonable fear of injury or death.

Is NC A Second Chance state? ›

Nearly 1 in 4 North Carolinians has a criminal record; this landmark piece of bipartisan legislation allows hundreds of thousands of people with criminal records to have their records expunged.

What is reasonable doubt in North Carolina? ›

No one can be convicted of a crime in North Carolina unless the prosecution can prove that they are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The term “beyond a reasonable doubt” implies that any reasonable person would have no doubt left in their mind about a person's guilt.

Is North Carolina a no cause state? ›

Can You Be Fired for No Reason in North Carolina? North Carolina is what is known as an “at-will employment” state. This means that unless there is a specific employment contract or law protecting employees, an employer can fire an employee at any moment for any reason, or for no reason at all.

Does NC have stand your ground law? ›

Like many other states, North Carolina enacted a stand your ground law in 2011. Under N.C.G.S. 14.51. 3, individuals have the right to defend themselves using deadly in their homes, motor vehicles, and workplaces.

What does open carry mean in North Carolina? ›

Open carry is legal in North Carolina without a permit, if you can legally own a firearm. You must be at least 18 years old with no felony convictions. The state places no limits on weapon caliber size or magazine capacity.

Is it illegal to pull a gun on someone in North Carolina? ›

Assault by pointing a gun in North Carolina is, in itself, a misdemeanor criminal charge that occurs when a person intentionally points a gun at another. Misdemeanor assault charges can also serve as a legal basis for additional, more serious felony charges depending on the fact-pattern of the allegations.

What are some self-defense everyone should know? ›

  • 10 Self-Defense Strategies Everyone Needs to Know.
  • TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. Too many women enroll in a self-defense class after they've been assaulted. ...

Can you hit someone if they provoke you? ›

Can you hit someone if they provoke you? Just because someone insulted you or said something rude or mean doesn't mean you have the right to hit them. However, if physical harm is imminent or they've already hit you once, you may have a legal right to self defence and can hit them back.

Can I fight back to defend myself? ›

Understanding How Self-Defense Law Applies

As a general rule, you have the legal right to use force to protect yourself against physical violence if you reasonably believe someone poses an imminent threat of bodily harm to you.

What are the 5 principles of self-defense? ›

The Five Principles of Self-Defense Laws
  • Principle 1: Innocence. ...
  • Principle 2: Imminence. ...
  • Principle 3: Proportionality. ...
  • Principle 4: Avoidance. ...
  • Principle 5: Reasonableness.

What is unlawful aggression in self-defense? ›

Imminent unlawful aggression means an attack that is impending or at the point of happening; it must not consist in a mere threatening or intimidating attitude, nor must it be merely imaginary, but must be offensive, menacing and positively strong, manifestly showing the wrongful intent to cause injury.

What is the most effective form of self-defense? ›

Self-defense: The Five Most Effective Martial Arts
  • On a collision course: Krav Maga. ...
  • (Almost) nothing is off limits: Mixed Martial Arts. ...
  • Raw but effective: Keysi. ...
  • Individual self-defense in the style of Bruce Lee: Jeet Kune Do. ...
  • Instinct rather than deliberation: Wing Chun.
Jan 17, 2019

Is it true that self-defense is lawful? ›

stand-your-ground laws, American legal statutes that permit the use of deadly force as a means of self-defense when people feel threatened with death or serious bodily harm, as in crimes of rape, robbery, arson, kidnapping, or murder.

How much force can you use to defend yourself? ›

Golden Rule #1: You may use no greater force than a reasonable person would deem necessary to defend against the threat proffered. What constitutes a threat varies significantly by state, but it always includes physical harm against you.

What to do if someone grabs you from behind? ›

If an attacker grabs you from behind, jerk your head back as hard as you can so that you hit them in the face or neck. This should loosen their grip on you. If they don't quite let go, bend down and reach between your legs to grab the back of their calf or knee, and pull it towards you with as much force as possible.

What is the 3 second rule in self-defense? ›

It is assessed when a member of the defending team spends more than three seconds in the free throw lane (also called the key, the 16-foot lane, or "the paint") while not actively guarding an opponent.

Is NC A stand your ground state? ›

Like many other states, North Carolina enacted a stand your ground law in 2011. Under N.C.G.S. 14.51. 3, individuals have the right to defend themselves using deadly in their homes, motor vehicles, and workplaces.

Is it illegal to use brass knuckles in self-defense in NC? ›

It shall be unlawful for any person, except when on his own premises, willfully and intentionally to carry concealed about his person any bowie knife, dirk, dagger, sling shot, loaded cane, metallic knuckles, razor, pistol, gun or other deadly weapon of like kind. (c)

Can you defend your home in NC? ›

Understanding Castle Doctrine in North Carolina

Castle Doctrine refers to the idea that a person's home is their “castle,” and they have the right to defend it, even using deadly force.

Can you carry a knife for self-defense in NC? ›

At a Glance:

North Carolina law, § 14-269, restricts the concealed carry of any bowie knife, dirk, dagger, razor, or “other deadly weapon of like kind,” except when one is on his own premises. There is an “ordinary pocketknife” exception that does not extend to some location-based restrictions such as schools.

Can you legally record a phone call in NC? ›

In North Carolina, only one party has to consent to the recording or disclosure of communications. That means you can agree, to yourself, to record your conversation with a person who is in North Carolina, and you do not need that person's consent to record the conversation.

Does NC have a stop and identify law? ›

North Carolina does not have a stop and identify statute.

A person driving a motor vehicle must provide his or her license to an officer upon request. G.S. 20-29. But North Carolina has not adopted a statute like Utah's or Nevada's that applies to all investigative detentions.

Does NC have a sunshine law? ›

The policy of the state of North Carolina is to allow public access to the business of government. We help by acting as a liaison between public officials and the public. Open government laws are known as “sunshine laws” because they help shed light on the government's work.

What weapons are illegal in North Carolina? ›

With limited exceptions (such as for on-duty officials), North Carolina prohibits certain types of weapons, including:
  • machine guns and similar automatic weapons, as well as parts for converting weapons into machine guns.
  • sawed-off shotguns.
  • silencers for firearms.
  • Teflon-coated bullets.
  • spring-loaded projectile knives.

Are ghost guns illegal in NC? ›

Our ruling. Easley Jr. said “North Carolina is among some of the top states in the country for ghost guns seized as crime guns."

Are AR 15 legal in North Carolina? ›

North Carolina has no law regulating assault weapons.

What is open carry is it legal in North Carolina? ›

Open carry is legal in North Carolina without a permit, if you can legally own a firearm. You must be at least 18 years old with no felony convictions. The state places no limits on weapon caliber size or magazine capacity.

Can you carry a pistol without a permit in NC? ›

It is unlawful to carry a concealed handgun in a vehicle unless the person has a valid concealed carry permit." A person who is not a convicted felon may carry a handgun if not concealed. A handgun is concealed in a vehicle if it cannot be readily seen by a person approaching and if it is readily accessible.

What is Castle law in NC? ›

The Castle Doctrine

If an intruder invades a person's space, the property owner can legally use deadly force against him or her, with no legal obligation to back down. This right extends not only to a person's home but also his or her vehicle and workplace under North Carolina law.

Can I carry a knife in my car in North Carolina? ›

North Carolina allows for the open carry of any legal weapon, so long as you are not carrying it to terrify or alarm the public. However, there are also places where a stun gun would be illegal even when carried openly.

Can you carry pepper spray in North Carolina? ›

North Carolina General Statute 14-269.2 makes it unlawful for any person to possess or carry, whether openly or concealed, any gun, rifle, pistol, knife, Taser, pepper spray and all other chemical agents used to incapacitate, batons, martial art weapons or any other weapon of like kind, as defined by State statute, on ...

What size knife is illegal to carry in NC? ›

North Carolina law enforces no blade length limits on knives that are legal to own or open carry. Ordinary pocket knives must have a “small” blade to quality for concealed carry, but “small” is not clarified with an actual measurement in the statutes.


1. How to Know When To Use Deadly Force In Self Defense
2. Self-Defense Rights in North Carolina—For the Record on WTOB
(Greenwood Law)
3. Lawyer Discusses North Carolina Self-Defense Law
(WXII 12 News)
4. 1 MINUTE LAW: When can I use deadly force in self defense?
(Tom Grieve)
5. South Carolina Self Defense Laws explained by Beaverg
(Burn It Down Beaverg)
6. Self Defense Law Explained


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