When Does South Carolina’s Stand Your Ground Law Apply?

SC’s Stand Your Ground law, or the “Protection of Persons and Property Act,” codified SC’s self-defense law and the Castle Doctrine, making it easier to claim self-defense or to avoid prosecution altogether if the Act applies to the facts of your case.

The Stand Your Ground law makes it clear that, if you are attacked in your home, your place of business, your car, or anyplace that you have a legal right to be, you have the right to defend yourself including the right to use deadly force.

If SC’s Stand Your Ground law applies to the facts of your case, you are entitled to a pretrial hearing to determine whether you are immune from prosecution – you should not be required to defend yourself against a criminal prosecution or a civil lawsuit simply for defending yourself or your family.

When does SC’s Stand Your Ground law apply, and how does it compare to the previous SC law on self-defense and the Castle Doctrine?

What is SC’s Stand Your Ground Law?

SC’s Protection of Persons and Property Act is found in SC Code Section 16-11-410, and it provides 1) you are acting in self-defense if you use deadly force against someone who forcibly enters your home or vehicle, 2) that there is no duty to retreat if you are attacked in any place you have a right to be, and 3) you are immune from prosecution if the Stand Your Ground law applies to your situation.

Forcible Entry

SC Code Section 16-11-440 says that there is a presumption that a person has “a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily injury to himself or another person” when someone is forcibly entering their home or vehicle, justifying the use of deadly force.

You have the right to use deadly force when someone:

  • Is in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering your home or vehicle,
  • Has already unlawfully and forcefully entered your home or vehicle, or
  • Is removing or attempting to remove someone from the home or vehicle.

Furthermore, a person who is attempting to forcibly enter your home or vehicle is “presumed to be doing so with the intent to commit an unlawful act involving force or a violent crime.” If the person trying to forcibly enter your home or vehicle is subject to a restraining order, order of protection, or a bond condition this law applies to them even if they live at the location…

There are exceptions, including:

  • When the person entering is a lawful resident (unless they are subject to an order of protection, restraining order, or condition of bond),
  • When it is a parent, grandparent, or legal guardian attempting to remove a child, or
  • When you are engaging in unlawful activity or using the home or vehicle in an unlawful activity.

No Duty to Retreat Under SC’s Stand Your Ground Law

There is also no duty to retreat if a person is attacked in their home, business, vehicle, or any place that they have a lawful right to be and if they are not engaging in unlawful activity at the time of the attack:

(C) A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in another place where he has a right to be, including, but not limited to, his place of business, has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force, if he reasonably believes it is necessary to prevent death or great bodily injury to himself or another person or to prevent the commission of a violent crime as defined in Section 16-1-60.

Immunity from Prosecution Under SC’s Stand Your Ground Law

SC Code Section 16-11-450 provides that any person who uses deadly force under the circumstances above “is justified in using deadly force and is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action for the use of deadly force” unless the person they used deadly force against was a law enforcement officer who 1) was acting in the performance of their official duties, and 2) identified themselves as a law enforcement officer or the person knew or should have known that it was a police officer.

As a practical matter, this means that you are entitled to a Stand Your Ground hearing before trial if you can show that the Stand Your Ground law should apply to you.

Self-Defense, the Castle Doctrine, and SC’s Stand Your Ground Law

SC’s Stand Your Ground law codifies self-defense law in SC, including the Castle Doctrine, with a few changes: 1) it adds a presumption that you were acting in self-defense if the Stand Your Ground law applies to you, and 2) it removes the requirement that you must retreat if you are attacked outside of your home.

Self-Defense Law in SC

Before the Stand Your Ground law, SC law on self-defense required you to show that:

  • You were not “at fault in bringing on the difficulty,”
  • You had a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily injury, and
  • There was no way for you to avoid the danger – if you were able, you had a duty to retreat from the attacker.

Under SC’s Stand Your Ground law, there is no longer a duty to retreat from an attacker, whether you are in your home, in your office, in your car, or walking down the street.

The Castle Doctrine in SC

The Castle Doctrine, which was incorporated into SC’s Stand Your Ground law, provided that there was no duty to retreat when you were attacked in your own home.

Defense of Others

SC self-defense laws still provide for “defense of others.” If you see someone else who is being attacked, you have the same right to defend them that they would have to defend themselves.

That means that the person you are going to help must have a valid self-defense or Stand Your Ground claim – if they started the fight or if they are violating the Stand Your Ground law themselves, you may not be able to claim defense of others or immunity under SC’s Stand Your Ground laws when you help them.

SC Murder Defense Lawyer in Conway, SC

Attorney Johnny Gardner has over twenty years of trial experience defending violent crimes, including murder and all levels of assault charges. We understand SC’s self-defense laws and SC’s Stand Your Ground law, and how to use them in your case…

If you have been charged with a crime or believe you are under investigation in SC, contact criminal defense Lawyer Johnny Gardner today for a free consultation to find out how we can help.