Our appellate courts are beginning to issue decisions concerning the impact of the General Assembly’s 2011 changes to North Carolina law on self-defense. A case earlier this summer addressed whether a defendant has a duty to retreat before using deadly force in self-defense in a place where he or she has a “lawful right to be.” See State v. Bass, ___ N.C. App. ___, 802 S.E.2d 477, temp. stay and rev. granted, ___ N.C. ___, 800 S.E.2d 421 (2017). In Bass, the Court of Appeals held that the defendant did not have a duty to retreat and further had the right to have the jury instructed that he did not have a duty to retreat.
So say two statutes enacted by the General Assembly in 2011 as part of its revision of North Carolina’s self-defense law. G.S. 14-51.2(e) and G.S. 14-51.3(b) both state that a person who uses force as permitted by those statutes—in defense of home, workplace, and vehicle under the first statute and in defense of self or others under the second statute—“is justified in using such force and is immune from civil or criminal liability for the use of such force . . . .” What does this protection mean in criminal cases? No North Carolina appellate cases have addressed the self-defense immunity provision. This blog post addresses possible implications.
Suppose John is facing a deadly assault and fears that he will be killed or suffer great bodily harm. John has a firearm but, rather than shoot his assailant, he fires a warning shot. The shot goes awry, strikes John’s assailant, and kills him. May John rely on self-defense if charged with murder? The answer may be surprising.
North Carolina law prohibits a person who has been convicted of a felony from possessing a firearm. The prohibition, set forth in G.S. 14-415.1, contains narrow exceptions, such as for antique firearms. The question has arisen in several cases whether a person with a prior felony conviction may possess a firearm if necessary to defend himself or others—in other words, whether the person may rely on a justification defense.
I am working on a new edition of the self-defense book I wrote in 1996. As in the story of Rip Van Winkle, a lot has changed in twenty years. Most notably, the General Assembly adopted new statutes in 2011 on self-defense and related defenses. This blog post addresses one of those provisions, in G.S. 14-51.4, which disqualifies a person from relying on self-defense while committing, attempting to commit, or escaping from the commission of a felony. North Carolina appellate courts have not yet considered the meaning of this provision. Cf. State v. Rawlings, ___ N.C. App. ___, 762 S.E.2d 909 (2014) (felony disqualification did not apply to case in which defendant’s offense predated enactment of provision, and court expressed no opinion on proper construction of provision).
George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford, Florida, recently shot and killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black 17-year-old who was walking through Zimmerman’s neighborhood. Martin was returning from a convenience store to the home of his father’s fiancee. The shooting has been in the news so much, and has stirred such strong emotions, that … Read more
[Editor’s note: John is the author of The Law of Self-Defense in North Carolina, an in-depth analysis of North Carolina’s approach to the use of defensive force. It’s available for purchase here.] North Carolina law recognizes various circumstances in which a person may lawfully use force against the threat of harm. Through decades of decisions, … Read more
I posted yesterday about one of the recent Court of Appeals decisions. At the risk of going back to the well, I want to highlight another of those cases today. (I’ve got something else in mind for tomorrow.) In State v. Revels, available here, the defendant was convicted of second-degree murder. She appealed, claiming that … Read more