Using “The Castle Doctrine” to Obtain Immunity from Criminal Prosecution: Part 1February 17, 2020 – Published by Robinson Law Firm
In 2011, the North Carolina General Assembly significantly expanded the common law defenses of self-defense and defense of others when it enacted G.S.§ 14-51.2 and G.S. § 14-51.3. These statutes apply to offenses occurring on or after 1 December 2011. Together, these statutes (The Castle Doctrine Statutes) create a rebuttable presumption that the lawful occupant of a home, motor vehicle or workplace has a reasonable fear of imminent death or serious injury justifying deadly defensive force in specific situations, and an additional presumption that the person who is unlawfully and forcefully entering the home, motor vehicle or workplace is doing so with the intent to commit an unlawful act involving force or violence. The Castle Doctrine Statutes also provide that a person has no duty to retreat and is justified in using deadly force: (a) if he reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm or (b) when a person is in his home, motor vehicle or workplace under the circumstances set out in G.S. § 14-51.2.
Most notable and unlike self-defense and defense of others developed under North Carolina common law, G.S. § 14-51.2 and G.S. § 14-51.3 expressly provide that “[a] person who uses force as permitted by this section is justified in using such force and is immune from civil or criminal liability for the use of such force…”. This language, along with G.S. § 15A-954(a)(9) provides the pre-trial opportunity to establish that the defender was justified in using the deadly force permitted and is immune from further criminal or civil prosecution. In this two-part article, we will first examine the language of the statutes that provides for this defense in the home, motor vehicle and workplace, and thereafter, examine the basis for pretrial immunity from further criminal or civil prosecution.
G.S. § 14-51.2 is entitled “Home, workplace, and motor vehicle protection; presumption of fear of death or serious bodily injury”. G.S. § 14-51.2 prescribes when the use deadly defensive force may be used in the home, motor vehicle and workplace as those terms are defined in §§ (a)(1), (a)(3) and (a)(4).
G.S. § 14-51.2(a)(1) defines home as: “A building or conveyance of any kind, to include its curtilage, whether the building or conveyance is temporary or permanent, mobile or immobile, which has a roof over it, including a tent, and is designed as a temporary or permanent residence.
G.S. § 14-51.2(a)(3) defines motor vehicle as: “Every vehicle which is self-propelled and every vehicle designed to run upon the highways which is pulled by a self-propelled vehicle. Except as specifically provided otherwise, this term shall not include mopeds or electric assisted bicycles.
G.S. § 14-51.2(a)(4) defines workplace as: “A building or conveyance of any kind, whether the building or conveyance is temporary or permanent, mobile or immobile, which has a roof over it, including a tent, which is being used for commercial purposes.”
G.S. § 14-51.2(b) creates a presumption for the reasonable fear of imminent death or serious bodily harm to him/herself or others justifying the use of deadly defensive force in three situations. FIRST, The person against whom the defensive force was used was in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering a home, motor vehicle or workplace. (Attempting Entry). SECOND, the person against whom the defensive force was used had unlawfully and forcibly entered a home, motor vehicle or workplace. (Entry). THIRD, the person against whom the defensive force was used had removed or was attempting to remove or had removed another against that person’s will from the home, motor vehicle or workplace. (Attempted removal or removal against will).
In these three situations, the presumption applies only if the person using deadly defensive force knew or had reason to believe that: an unlawful and forcible entry was occurring or had occurred; or an unlawful and forcible act was occurring or had occurred. The person who unlawfully and by force enters or attempts to enter a person home, motor vehicle or workplace is presumed to be doing so with the intent to commit an unlawful act with force or violence.
Each of the three presumptions is rebuttable and does not apply when: 1) the person against whom defensive force is used has a right to be in or is a lawful resident of the home, motor vehicle or workplace, such as owner or lessee and there is no DVPO or bail conditions that prohibit contact against the person; 2) the person sought to be removed from the home, motor vehicle or workplace is a child or grandchild or otherwise in lawful custody or guardianship of the person against whom the defensive force is used; 3) the person using the deadly defensive force is engaged in or fleeing from or using the home, motor vehicle or workplace to further any criminal offense that involves the threat of physical force or violence against any individual; 4) the person against whom defensive force is used is a law enforcement officer or bondsman who enters the home, motor vehicle or workplace in lawful performance of their duties after identifying themselves, or when the person using the force knew or should have reasonably known that the person was acting in such capacity; or 5) the person against whom defensive force is used has discontinued all efforts to enter the home, motor vehicle or workplace and has exited the home, motor vehicle or workplace.
STAND YOUR GROUND
A lawful occupant within his/her home, motor vehicle or workplace has no duty to retreat from an intruder in the three circumstances described above. This is typically referred to as your right to “Stand Your Ground”.
SUBSTANTIVE RIGHT TO IMMUNITY
G.S. § 14-51.2 provides the substantive law that allows the pursuit of immunity from civil and criminal prosecution. In part two of this article, we will examine exactly what “immunity” means within the meaning of this G.S. § 14-51.2 and the procedural mechanisms to properly assert immunity on behalf of a person entitled to its benefit.
 See the following link to G.S. § 14-51.2. https://www.ncleg.net/EnactedLegislation/Statutes/HTML/BySection/Chapter_14/GS_14-51.2.html
 See the following link to G.S. § 14-51.3. https://www.ncleg.net/EnactedLegislation/Statutes/HTML/BySection/Chapter_14/GS_14-51.3.html