South Carolina High Court Limits Stand Your Ground Self-Defense Appeals
South Carolina is strong on gun rights. Yet, a new ruling from the South Carolina Supreme Court could limit the expediency of self-defense claims made by those charged with violent crimes.
Defendants must wait until after trial to appeal denial of self-defense immunity
The new court decision is actually about the self-defense immunity law rather than South Carolina's Stand Your Ground law, although the two are closely linked. Essentially, when someone kills or wounds another person and rightfully claims self-defense under the Stand Your Ground law, the self-defense immunity statute bars criminal prosecution or a civil case against the person who acted in self-defense.
Formerly, when someone made a claim of self-defense immunity that was initially denied by the judge, that person could appeal the judge's ruling to the Supreme Court. If the original denial of self-defense immunity was upheld, the person would face a criminal trial, but if it was overturned, the person would be immune from prosecution.
Now, after a unanimous South Carolina Supreme Court ruling in late August, those whose initial claim of self-defense is denied must wait until after they have been tried and found guilty in order to appeal the denial of self-defense immunity.
Proponents of the ruling claim that it closed off an avenue commonly used by defense attorneys to delay trials. But others find it unfair for those charged with violent crimes to have to undergo the ordeal of a full trial when the case may ultimately be overturned by the South Carolina Supreme Court on a retroactive finding of self-defense immunity.
"All other states I know of that have a Stand Your Ground law don't require a defendant who is claiming immunity to undergo a trial before their immunity claim is heard on appeal," Jack Duncan, the president of the South Carolina Association of Defense Lawyers, told The State.
When the new self-defense ruling was released, there were nine Stand Your Ground immunity appeals pending before the South Carolina Supreme Court.
Contact a South Carolina criminal defense attorney if you have been accused of a violent crime
While the limitation on Stand Your Ground self-defense appeals removes one strategy from a defense attorney's toolbox, it only underscores the importance of staging a strong legal defense to charges of murder, assault or other violent crimes. Conviction for a violent crime carries grave repercussions, but South Carolina's Stand Your Ground law can provide a powerful defense if you felt threatened at the time of the alleged incident. Talk to a South Carolina criminal defense attorney today to learn more about the Stand Your Ground law and to begin implementing a legal strategy for your defense.