In South Carolina, you have the right to defend yourself from a violent attacker. There are certain rules that apply that don't grant the right to harm someone who poses a non-violent threat or when violent situations can be diffused. It's important that you understand what protections are available under South Carolina's Protection of Persons and Property Act (Title 16, section 16-11-440).
How do South Carolina's self-defense laws work?
South Carolina's Protection of Persons and Property Act became effective in June of 2006. It is also known as the "Stand Your Ground" law.
Under this law, you have the right to protect yourself and your property when in your residence, in your car, or in your business or place of employment. If someone else were to enter unlawfully, you may be reasonably in fear for your safety or life.
In order to prove self-defense in South Carolina, you need to show four things:
- You didn't bring about or provoke an altercation in any way. Therefore, you were not at fault for the violent encounter.
- You were in fear of being physically harmed or killed as a result of the violent encounter.
- The fear that you experienced at the time of the violent encounter was reasonable.
- You used force as a last resort and tried to diffuse the situation beforehand.
The Protection of Persons and Property Act doesn't necessarily grant you the right to use deadly or maiming force against an attacker. Rather, you have the right to remain where you are in your home, car or place of employment. In short, there is no way to "stand your ground" if you're the provoker.
Can I face criminal charges for just protecting myself?
You used force to defend yourself against a violent attacker. Now, you may have to defend yourself from facing assault, murder, or manslaughter charges in court. Here are the legal consequences you could face if convicted:
- Assault and battery. Under Section 16-3-600 of SC Penal Code, assault and battery that causes great bodily injury can result in a felony charge and a prison sentence of up to 20 years.
- Murder. Under Section 16-3-20 of SC Penal Code, a murder conviction is punishable by the death penalty or a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment for 30 years to life.
- Manslaughter. Under Section 16-3-50 of SC Penal Code, a manslaughter conviction is punishable by a prison sentence of no less than 2 years and no more than 30 years.
You need to have a viable legal defense. So, the Protection of Persons and Property Act must have applied to the situation you faced. If you're facing criminal charges after practicing your right to protect yourself and/or your property, you should speak to an experienced South Carolina criminal defense attorney who can launch an investigation and gather the facts to help you build a strong legal defense.
Learn how to protect your rights. Contact Matt Bodman, P.A. in Columbia, SC to schedule your free legal consultation.