Self Defense and the Protection of Persons and Property
Several states have recently enacted legislation intended to extend castle protection laws to include other locations where they can claim immunity from prosecution because they were protecting themselves or their property. South Carolina is one of those states implementing what is generally referred to as the “Stand Your Ground” law. While the law is intended to allow individuals greater personal protection in high crime areas, as well as their home and property, it is by no means an automatic defense to a manslaughter charge.
Castle laws defenses have historically been limited by location, basically only allowing the defense if the altercation occurs in the home or on the property of a charged individual. Application of the defense is not necessarily restricted to the property owner if the defendant was authorized by the owner to be in or at the home. Intruders, by definition, do not have a reasonable right of entry according to the law in most states. The “Stand Your Ground” defense extension to other locations is limited in some respects, but it does allow an individual who is obviously threatened with bodily harm to defend themselves using lethal force if necessary to stop the attacker. The question with this portable self-defense protection legal claim will always be which party began the altercation.
There are specific rules concerning when the “Stand Your Ground” defense can be successfully claimed in court. While it is still a requirement for the criminal court to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not act in self-defense, the judges in most states will evaluate the case to determine if the defense is acceptable by the court. In the event it is found as a valid defense in a special pretrial hearing, the pending criminal charge is summarily dismissed from the court.
If the defendant counsel still intends to use the defense in some manner when the case is not dismissed, self-defense can still be claimed by protection under other statutes. There are three conditions that must be met to apply the Protection of Persons and Property Act, and specifically addresses being in a vehicle as well as being in a personal home. The defendant must be in a location that they are authorized to occupy, not be engaged in unlawful activity, and justifies the action as defending against an attack to “prevent death, great bodily harm, or (avoid) commission of a violent crime.” In addition, this threshold extends for individuals operating a business who are under attack or being robbed at gunpoint.