Fundamental Principles of Statutory Self-Defense

The common law right to use defensive force in North Carolina rests on three fundamental principles: necessity, proportionality, and fault. Ordinarily, when a person uses defensive force, the force must be reasonably necessary to prevent harm; the force must be proportional to the threatened harm; and the person using defensive force must not be at fault in the conflict. See John Rubin, The Law of Self-Defense § 2.1(b), at 14–15 (UNC School of Government, 1996). North Carolina’s new statutes on defensive force continue to rely on these principles. As under the common law, the statutes do not always refer to these principles in describing the circumstances in which a person may use defensive force. But, as this post is intended to show, the basic principles of necessity, proportionality, and fault remain central to the statutory rights.

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