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North Carolina Self Defense Laws

It's a common view that self defense is a justification when you're under attack or threatened. Every state has self defense laws to determine the specific circumstances under which a person can use the defense. Although the concept of self defense is universally accepted, certain aspects of the principle are the subject of scrutiny. For instance, "stand your ground laws" (laws that fundamentally eliminate the duty to retreat from an attacker before you can use deadly force) are continuously debated.

The Castle Doctrine

More than half of states recognize stand your ground laws in some form or another. North Carolina is in this group because it follows a version of this type of law called the "Castle Doctrine." This differs from more traditional stand your ground law states since the law further restricts contexts under which an individual can use deadly force to defend themselves. The rationale is based on the idea that your home is your "castle;" if an intruder invades your space, you have no obligation to back down. North Carolina law extends this by including not only your home, but also your vehicle and your workplace

North Carolina Self Defense Laws at a Glance

The chart below provides a summary of statutes related to North Carolina's self defense laws, including links to important code sections.


  • North Carolina General Statutes 14-51.2 (home, workplace, and motor vehicle protection)
  • North Carolina General Statutes 14-51.3 (use of force in defense of a person)
  • North Carolina General Statutes 14-51.4 (no justification for defensive force)

Justifiable Use of Force

Defense of a person:
You can use reasonable force (not deadly force) when you reasonably believe that the force is necessary to protect yourself or another against an attacker's imminent use of unlawful force.

Justified Use of Deadly Force and No Duty to Retreat (if you have the lawful right to be there) when:
You reasonably believe that the force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily injury (to you or another person).

You are immune from civil and criminal liability unless:

  • You used the force against a law enforcement officer or bail bondsperson who was lawfully acting in the performance of his or her official duties; and
  • The officer or bondsperson identified himself or herself as such or you knew or had reason to know that the person was a law enforcement officer or bails bondsperson.

No duty to retreat from your home, motor vehicle, or workplace because there is a presumption of fear of death or serious bodily harm.

When the Use of Deadly Force is Not Justified

  • The person against whom the force is used has the right to be in, or is a lawful resident of, the home, vehicle, or workplace; no written injunction or order prohibiting contact exists.
  • The person against whom the force is used has ended efforts to forcefully enter the home, vehicle, or workplace.
  • The person using deadly force is an initial aggressor.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

North Carolina Self Defense Laws: Related Resources

Need Help with Self Defense Laws? Find an Attorney

If you've been accused of a crime in which North Carolina's self defense laws apply, then it is important to talk to a defense attorney who can assess your options. Take control of your case by finding a local criminal defense attorney today.

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