What if you were defending yourself and someone else and were charged with murder or aggravated assault? Will you still face a criminal charge, or is there a valid legal defense?
The stand your ground law in South Carolina may apply. Learn more about the stand your ground defense from the Columbia homicide defense attorneys at Shealey Law Firm.
What Is the Stand Your Ground Law in South Carolina?
South Carolina expanded its self-defense laws in 2006 by passing the Protection of Persons and Property Act. This law combines the castle doctrine and other self-defense doctrines into one.
In most cases, no one has the right to enter your home illegally or forcefully, and nobody can forcefully remove you from somewhere you have a right to be.
Suppose you use deadly force and kill someone who attacks you or someone else. You may qualify for immunity from prosecution on murder or aggravated assault charges through a stand your ground hearing. Your defense attorney will need to prove that:
- You didn’t provoke the attack.
- You believed your attacker would imminently kill you or inflict serious bodily harm.
- Other reasonable persons would have also believed they were in imminent danger if faced with the same situation.
- You didn’t have other probable means to avoid the threat (this doesn’t mean you should retreat.)
The castle doctrine states that you don’t have a duty to retreat from the attacker if you or the person you’re defending has the right to be in the location where the attack occurs. This location may include your home, dwelling, business or car.
If the person you defend meets the above self-defense elements, you usually have legal justification for protecting them. The stand your ground law in South Carolina also covers situations where an attacker removes or attempts to remove someone against their will from a place they have a right to be.
There are exceptions to this law, and the prosecution will attempt to discredit your self-defense assertions. You’ll need an experienced criminal defense attorney from Shealey Law Firm to protect your rights.
What Are the Exceptions to the Self-Defense Law in SC?
Even if your case meets some elements of self-defense, you cannot obtain immunity from using deadly force against an attacker in certain circumstances:
- The attacker is a resident or owner or has a legal right to be in the location.
- The attacker has legal guardianship or custody of the child or grandchild they seek to remove.
- You are committing a crime or using the location to commit a crime.
- The attacker is a law enforcement officer who identifies themselves as such and is performing official duties, or you should reasonably assume the attacker is an officer.
If you used deadly force acting in self-defense, your attorney can use the stand your ground law in South Carolina to request a hearing before trial.
What Is a Stand Your Ground Hearing?
This type of hearing allows you to seek immunity from criminal charges; if you win, the court will dismiss these charges.
You must provide evidence to support your claim, and the court must find by a preponderance of evidence that you acted in self-defense. Unlike a prosecutor’s need to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt during a trial, proving a claim by a preponderance of evidence means that it’s more likely true than not.
You must proceed with a trial if you don’t win immunity during your hearing. During the trial, you can use any portion of the self-defense law in South Carolina. You cannot appeal the decision in your stand your ground hearing until after your trial.
How Can You Prove the Elements of Self-Defense?
When your attorney uses the stand your ground law in South Carolina as your defense, they will look for solid evidence proving that you were in fear for your life. Sources of evidence may include:
- Video footage showing the entire incident or the intruder using force
- Witness statements
- Expert witness testimony about likely outcomes of particular behaviors
- Restraining orders, orders of protection or bond conditions
- Psychological expert testimony regarding how people perceive specific threats
Brian and Luke Shealey and their team will fight to help you win immunity.
How Can Shealey Law Firm Help With a Stand Your Ground Defense?
Your future and freedom are at stake if you face murder or assault charges, and you’ll want a competent attorney to represent you. The attorneys at Shealey Law Firm have extensive experience with stand your ground hearings and an excellent track record of winning. Request a free consultation 24/7 by calling us today.