Criminal Defenses in North Carolina: Understanding the Defense of Others

What Constitutes a Defense of Others in North Carolina?

Defense of others is a legal justification of a defendant's use of force in circumstances where they acted in defense of another person who they reasonably believed to be at risk of immediate harm.

Like self-defense and defense of property, defense of others in Wake County is used to defend allegations of violence. The defendant does not dispute that they did the violent act, but they argue their actions were legally justified. 

A defendant may be able to argue defense of another where:

  • They held a reasonable belief that the use of force was necessary to protect someone from an immediate threat of harm 
  • They used reasonable force, that wasn't excessive in the circumstances

A person may also use lethal force to defend another person if they reasonably believed it was necessary in the circumstances to prevent serious harm or injury to that person.

Facing criminal charges can be extremely scary. The attorneys at Law Office of Sean P. Cecil, PLLC can help you understand what you are facing and how to defend yourself. Call us today at 919-828-1456 ext. 5 to schedule a free initial consultation.

Burden of Proof for Defense of Others Claim in Wake County

Like self-defense, defense of others in North Carolina is a defense to criminal charges related to use of force. The lack of a legal justification is a burden that must be proven by the state prosecutor.

This means that a defendant need not present evidence to benefit from the law on the lawful use of force in defense of others. However, as a practical matter, they might wish to establish the reasonableness of their belief and that the level of force used was justified by the circumstances of the situation they were in.

In other states, once the defendant has raised an affirmative defense, such as defense of others, the onus shifts back to the prosecution to disprove the defense. 

Examples of Wake County Defense of Others

John is at a house party, talking to Liam and Tim. During a heated conversation, Tim raises his fist to punch Liam. John sees this and pushes Tim over before he can hit Liam. If John is later charged with assaulting Tim, he could argue defense of another on the basis he reasonably believed Liam was at risk of imminent harm and he used reasonable force to stop Tim from hitting him. 

In contrast, if rather than pushing Tim over, John stabs him with a knife, it would be unlikely John could successfully argue defense of another. In this scenario, the force he used wasn't reasonable, it was clearly excessive.

Why Hiring a Defense Attorney in Wake County Is Imperative

Establishing defense of others can be complicated and very technical. At Law Office of Sean P. Cecil, PLLC we know when this defense can or cannot be used. Call us today at 919-828-1456 ext. 5 to find out of this method of defense would work in your criminal case, and what other options may be available.