Plenty of states, including North Carolina, have laws that give citizens the right to use deadly force against intruders that invade their homes or other property. This concept–the Castle Doctrine– protects your right to protect your own “castle.”
Though NC does have some Castle Doctrine protection, currently the mix of common and statutory law leaves too much gray area that can leave crime victims who protect themselves in a legal mess. Florida’s Castle Doctrine is written with less ambiguity and gives citizens more freedom to defend themselves in the event of an attack or intrusion.
Here is a quick comparison of how North Carolina measures up to Florida when it comes to Castle Doctrine protections.
- Duty to retreat– In Florida a person who is attacked has a right to meet force with force, whether they are attacked in their home or a public place. In North Carolina you have a right to use force in the case of an attack or intrusion into your home, but there a duty to retreat if the attack occurs outside of your home like in a car or in public.
- Presumption of intent to commit a felony or violence and fear of death or serious injury– In Florida there is a legal presumption that an intruder or attacker entering a home has the intent to commit a felony and that the victim has a reasonable fear of death or injury. In North Carolina, occupants must prove that they had a reason to believe the intruder planned to commit a felony and that they feared that the intruder was going to harm them physically.
- Immunity from criminal prosecution and civil liability – If a question about whether force used was justifiable arises in Florida, the burden is on the state to prove that force was excessive. In North Carolina the victim of a crime must prove that the force they used was justified.
The most recent attempt to update the North Carolina Castle Doctrine, SB928, passed the state Senate but failed to make it out of committee in the House. Sen. Andrew Brock (R-Davie, Rowan), a co-sponsor of the bill, says that it would have given an individual “a right to defend themselves if they [felt] that their life [was] in danger.” The bill would have expanded Castle Doctrine protection to include vehicles.
Legislation to clarify and strengthen the Castle Doctrine in NC is a realistic plan to include more rights for citizens who want to defend themselves.
Police officers cannot be in all places at all times. Expanding the law would not mitigate duties of officers. Rather it would provide supplemental support in rare, extreme cases. With tight budgets, law enforcement could be subject to scrutiny and funding cuts like any other government agency.
North Carolinian’s should have a right to protect themselves and others should a public attack like the one in Tuscon, Arizona ever happen in NC.