Self Defense Law in NC | Can I shoot them?


Does the Self Defense Law in NC allow me to use deadly force?

As a NC Trial Attorney, I am frequently asked questions about self defense law in NC

“What is the self defense law in NC?”

“What is the self defense law in NC as it relates to protection of others?”

“When may I use deadly force?”

“Can I shoot someone trying to break into my home based upon the Castle Doctrine?”

What is self defense?

In short, Self Defense is a defense used to justify a person’s conduct that otherwise would be criminal.  For example, the law of self-defense provides that a person may use deadly force / kill an attacker if he or she reasonably believes that their acts are necessary to prevent the attacker from killing or causing them great bodily harm.

Generally, a person may use force against another when the amount of force is reasonably necessary to protect  themselves from the other person’s assault, even if the person’s assault is not deadly.

What is defense of others according to the self defense law in NC?

The same rules apply for utilizing self-defense  when defending another person.

When can I use deadly force for self defense?

A person may use deadly force to protect themselves IF the person reasonably believes such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or bodily harm to himself / herself or another, EXCEPT IF

  1. The person knew or reasonably should have known, that the person was either law enforcement or a bail bondsmen;
  2. The person uses deadly force against a law enforcement officer who is lawfully performing their official duties after having first identified themselves;
  3. The person using deadly force is engaged in or attempting to commit a felony;
  4. The person using deadly force is determined to have been the initial aggressor in the confrontation and fails to withdraw or attempt to withdraw from the escalation of the confrontation prior to exercising deadly force;

QUICK ANSWER: You may shoot someone if you reasonably believe your life is in danger, so long as, none of the exceptions above apply.

North Carolina Castle Doctrine: Defense of Home, Workplace, and Motor Vehicle

Can I shoot someone breaking into my home or car?

North Carolina General Statute 14-51.2 covers three defenses:  Each of these defenses are similar in that a lawful occupant of a home, workplace, or motor vehicle is presumed to have a reasonable fear of imminent death or serious bodily harm if both of the following apply:

  1. The person against whom the defense force was used was unlawfully or forcibly entering or had unlawfully / forcibly entered or that person had removed or was attempting to remove another person against their will from said place, and
  2. The occupant knew or had reason to believe an unlawful and forcible entry or unlawful and forcible act was or had occurred. EXCEPT,
  3. In situations as detailed in NC GS 14-51.2(c) or as previously stated regarding law enforcement officers and bail bondsmen.

For additional information see NCGS 14-51.2 & NCGS 14-51.3

When can I use non deadly force to prevent or stop an attacker?

A person may defend themselves, even if the other’s assault is not deadly. One may use a reasonable amount of force to stop / prevent serious injury to their self or others. However, deadly force may be prohibited unless the person has a reasonable belief that force is necessary to prevent imminent death or bodily harm.

written by

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Jon Welborn

Jon is an experienced trial attorney with over 10 years litigating a variety of cases in all NC Trial Courts. To find out more visit us on

No brief summary such as the one above should ever replace the advice of sound, experienced legal counsel so please contact Welborn Law for any specific questions you may have.

What is Self Defense in North Carolina?” is a blog entry and frequently asked question that Attorney Jon Welborn receives on a regular basis.  If you have specific questions then feel free to contact Jon at his email: or at 336-751-0207

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