North Carolina’s new “Castle Doctrine” law, which addresses certain circumstances under which a person can legally shoot or use other deadly force against another, takes effect Thursday.
North Carolina’s current Castle Doctrine only applies to homes, but under the new law it also applies to vehicles and places of work. The Castle Doctrine, rooted in English common law, expresses the belief that one should be safe from illegal intrusion in one’s home.
The new law is much longer and clarifies when deadly force can be used.
New law more specific
The new law defines a person’s home as any property with a roof where the person lives and also includes “curtilage,” which is the area immediately around a home. It defines a person’s workplace as any property with a roof used for commercial purposes. It says a home or workplace can be temporary or permanent and specifically says either one can be a tent.
Under the new law, the lawful occupant of a home, motor vehicle or workplace isn’t required to retreat prior to using deadly force.
The new law presumes that a person who unlawfully and by force enters or attempts to enter one of these locations intends to commit an unlawful act involving force or violence.
The new law presumes that a lawful occupant of a home, motor vehicle or workplace reasonably fears imminent death or serious bodily harm to himself, herself or another when using defensive force likely to cause death or serious injury if:
• the person against whom defensive force was used was unlawfully and forcefully entering or had already entered a motor vehicle, or workplace, or if the person had taken or was trying to take another person against his will from the home, motor vehicle or workplace;
• the person using defensive force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry or unlawful and forcible act was occurring or had occurred.
When deadly force isn’t lawful
The new law says presumption of lawful use of deadly force does not apply when:
• the person against whom the defensive force is used has the right to be in or is a lawful resident of the home, motor vehicle, or workplace, and there is no written injunction or order prohibiting contact;
• the person sought to be removed from the home, motor vehicle or workplace is a child or grandchild or is in the lawful custody or under lawful guardianship of the person against whom defensive force is used;
• the person using defensive force is using the home, motor vehicle, or workplace to further any criminal offense that involves the use or threat of physical force or violence against anyone;
• the person against whom the defensive force is used is a law enforcement officer or bail bondsman in lawful performance of his official duties, and the officer or bail bondsman identified himself or herself or the person using force knew or reasonably should have known that the person entering or attempting to enter was a law enforcement officer or bail bondsman;
• the person against whom defensive force is used has discontinued efforts to unlawfully and forcefully enter the home, motor vehicle or workplace and has exited those locations.
Defense of self or others
The new law also modifies rules of self-defense and defense of others.
It provides a person using non-deadly force with immunity from civil and criminal liability if the person using it reasonably believes it’s necessary for defense against imminent unlawful force.
It says a person can use deadly force without first retreating if the person reasonably believes it’s necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or another person or under circumstances permitted under the state’s revised Castle Doctrine.
It says a person using non-deadly or deadly force in accordance with the new law is protected from civil or criminal liability unless he used it against a law enforcement officer lawfully performing his duties and the officer identified himself as required or the person using force knew or should have known that the person was a law enforcement officer lawfully performing his duties.
Defensive force isn’t justified for people committing or escaping after committing a felony or who provokes the use of force.
The new law says a person attempting to commit, committing, or escaping after the commission of a felony isn’t justified in using defensive force.
The new law says a person who provokes use of force against himself is justified in using defensive force if he believes he is in imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm and has no reasonable way to escape. It says this person is also justified in using defensive force if he clearly indicates he wants to withdraw from physical contact and the other person continues use of force.
Old law much shorter
The much shorter law being replaced says, “A lawful occupant within a home or other place of residence is justified in using any degree of force that the occupant reasonably believes is necessary, including deadly force, against an intruder to prevent a forcible entry into the home or residence or to terminate the intruder’s unlawful entry if the occupant reasonably apprehends that the intruder may kill or inflict serious bodily harm to the occupant or others in the home or residence, or if the occupant reasonably believes that the intruder intends to commit a felony in the home or residence.” It also says, “A lawful occupant within a home or other place of residence does not have a duty to retreat from an intruder in the circumstances described in this section.”