Self-Defense, Defense of Others, and “Stand Your Ground” in South Carolina

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Published by

William Grove

on June 7, 2023

You have a legal right to defend both yourself and others in South Carolina

If you are charged with a crime, the law requires certain elements to be met to succeed in these defenses. South Carolina also has a “Stand Your Ground Law” that may provide immunity from prosecution altogether.

What are the elements of self-defense in South Carolina?

Self-defense is a defense that can be raised at trial to charges including murder, voluntary manslaughter, or assault and battery. An attorney also may be able to advocate on your behalf before a trial, or during a plea negotiation, based on self-defense.

There are four elements for self-defense in South Carolina. These elements are:

  1. You were “without fault in bringing on the difficulty.” This means that you cannot have initiated or furthered the attack;
  2. You were, or you believed that you were, “in imminent danger” of loss of life or having a serious bodily injury;
  3. “[A] reasonably prudent man of ordinary firmness and courage” would have believed they were in imminent danger if they were in the same situation; and
  4. There was “no other probable means of avoiding the danger.” This element no longer applies under South Carolina’s “Stand Your Ground” law as long as you were lawfully present. There is no longer a “duty to retreat.”

You do not have to prove that self-defense applies to your case. If you raise the defense of self-defense and the prosecution cannot disprove one or more of these elements beyond a reasonable doubt, jurors must acquit you at trial.

What about acting in Defense of Others?

Another possible defense that can be raised at trial is the “defense of others.”  This defense is similar to self-defense but when you act in defense of another person. Your right to intervene to protect the other person is subject to the same rights and limitations as self-defense. Your rights in defending another are the same as if you stepped into that person’s shoes. In such situations, you have the right to “act on appearances” if you believed the person was in imminent danger even if you were mistaken. However, if the person you are defending was not acting lawfully, this defense may not be available.

What is South Carolina’s Stand Your Ground Law?

South Carolina’s Stand Your Ground Law was passed in 2006 and is called the “Protection of Persons and Property Act.” Unlike the defenses discussed above, the Stand Your Ground Law states that you are immune from prosecution when using deadly force in certain circumstances. This means you can request a hearing before a judge regarding immunity from prosecution without going to trial.

The Stand Your Ground Law states that you have the right to protect yourself if an intruder is unlawfully and forcefully entering a home or occupied vehicle or if someone is removing another person against his will from the home or occupied vehicle. The law may not apply if the intruder has a legal right to be in the home or car or if you invited them to be there.

The Stand Your Ground Law also protects you when defending yourself in any place outside of your home or vehicle. If you meet the requirements of the law, you can defend yourself with deadly force if you are attacked anywhere you have the legal right to be. For the Stand Your Ground Law to apply, you cannot be engaged in unlawful activity, you must reasonably believe that force is necessary to protect you or someone else from death or great bodily injury, or to prevent the commission of a violent crime. You have no duty to retreat.

Often, the Stand Your Ground Law plays a role in the decision to charge someone by law enforcement or the solicitor’s office after an incident. If you have used force in defense of yourself or others, the attorneys at Grove Ozment can help advise you during the investigation and advocate on your behalf with law enforcement and the solicitor’s office.

Questions about self-defense, the defense of others, or the Stand Your Ground Law in South Carolina?

If you have been charged with a crime in South Carolina, the lawyers at Grove Ozment can help you navigate which of these defenses may apply in your case. We will investigate and prepare your defense, work to get your case dismissed, negotiate on your behalf in any plea offers, and ultimately present your defense at trial if necessary. Call us today or contact us online for a free consultation.