It is generally understood that people can use deadly force to defend themselves and their property. But, cases such as these are not always cut-and-dry. A recent case involving a car owner shooting a would-be car thief who was in the process of fleeing has raised some questions about the extent of criminal laws and defense around deadly force in North Carolina.
The law on this topic is known as the “castle doctrine.” Under it, unlawful intruders who pose a deadly threat can be met with deadly force. However, the law is designed to protect people, not property. Therefore, someone who uses deadly force would need to have felt that a person was being threatened to justify the action.
In the case in question, a man who shot a would-be thief after finding him in his vehicle in the middle of the night. Because the individual was fleeing when he was shot, the state believes he did not pose a risk and have charged the shooter with assault with a deadly weapon, as well as intent to kill and inflict serious injury. Issues that will come into play in the case include what was said between the two parties and whether the shooter saw something that made him feel his life was in danger.
Someone accused of using deadly force who would like to use the castle doctrine as a defense would need to show that they reaction was proportional to the threat they faced. There are many factors that may be considered in determining this, and the experience of everyone involved as well as witnesses is important in such cases. Those who have been arrested or charged due to use of deadly force could significantly benefit from speaking with a lawyer about what criminal defense option makes sense in their case.