What You Need to Know About Stand Your Ground Law in South Carolina


In the face of danger, the instinct to defend oneself is a natural human response. Self-defense laws exist to provide legal justification for using force in such situations. However, the specific rules governing self-defense vary across states.

South Carolina, like many others, has adopted a “stand your ground” law, which removes the traditional “duty to retreat” before using force in certain circumstances.

As criminal defense lawyers, we understand that your freedom and future are at stake when charged with gun crimes, assault, or murder. You will need solid legal representation, and that’s where we come in. We have years of experience, so do not hesitate to reach out by calling (803) 649-5338.

How Does the Stand Your Ground Law Work in South Carolina?

The Stand Your Ground Law in South Carolina amalgamates several principles pertaining to self-defense, applicable both inside and outside your home:

  • The “castle doctrine” principle, which stipulates that an individual has no obligation to retreat when protecting themselves within their own home.
  • Self-defense regulations that permit the use of force in protecting oneself, others, and personal property.

These stand your ground laws offer more comprehensive self-defense rights than what was traditionally provided under common law. These rights were broadened with the introduction of the Protection of Persons and Property Act in 2006.

Prior to this legislation, there was a duty to retreat from a potential assault before resorting to lethal force against the assailant. However, the current law may allow you to stand your ground in self-defense or in defense of others, provided there is a reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury.

Stand Your Ground Self-Defense Elements

If you have to resort to deadly force following an attack, you might be eligible for immunity from being prosecuted for murder or aggravated assault through a stand your ground hearing. However, the state requires you to establish the following:

  • You were not the instigator of the attack.
  • You were under the belief that your attacker was about to kill you or cause severe bodily harm.
  • Any reasonable person would have perceived themselves to be in immediate danger if confronted with the same circumstances.
  • You did not have other likely ways to evade the threat (this does not imply you should have retreated.)

If the individual you are defending aligns with the self-defense elements mentioned above, you typically have a legal basis to protect them. South Carolina’s stand your ground law also encompasses situations where an attacker forcibly removes or tries to remove someone from a location where they have a right to be.

Image is of the scales of justice on a desk with a judge's gavel and law book, concept of stand your ground laws in South Carolina

Proving the Elements of Self-defense

If you decide to use stand your ground law in South Carolina as your defense, your lawyer will seek concrete proof that you were fearing for your life.

Potential evidence could include:

  • Video recordings that capture the whole incident or the assailant exerting force
  • Statements from witnesses
  • Testimony from expert witnesses about probable consequences of certain actions
  • Restraining orders, protection orders, or bond conditions
  • Expert testimony from a psychologist on how individuals perceive particular threats.

What Are the Exceptions to Arguing Self-Defense?

Even if your case fulfills certain elements of self-defense, there are specific situations where you cannot claim immunity for using deadly force against an aggressor:

  • If the aggressor is a resident, owner, or has a legal right to be in that place.
  • If the aggressor has legal guardianship or custody of the child or grandchild they are trying to remove.
  • If you are committing a crime or using the location to carry out a crime.
  • If the aggressor is a law enforcement officer who has identified themselves as such and is carrying out official duties

Establishing Self-Defense at the Beginning of Your Case

If the court determines that the Stand Your Ground law is applicable, you will not be subjected to any prosecution, and there will be no need for a trial. Initially, the court will have to decide whether the law is applicable and whether you are indeed immune from charges.

At the beginning of the legal process, the court will conduct a stand your ground hearing specifically for your self-defense immunity. If you can convincingly demonstrate that you acted in self-defense, you will not be subjected to any further criminal prosecution.

Essentially, this will be your preliminary trial before the actual trial. If you achieve a favorable outcome here, your legal proceedings will conclude. As such, it is crucial to prepare thoroughly for the court hearing with the assistance of a seasoned criminal defense attorney.

Our Criminal Defense Lawyers Are Experienced With Stand Your Ground Law in South Carolina

We hold the belief that everyone is entitled to the most robust legal defense when faced with criminal charges. At Johnson, Johnson, Whittle, Lancer, & Staggs, our team of criminal defense lawyers specializing in homicide and other violent crimes will tirelessly work on your behalf.

If you need to consult with a criminal defense attorney, feel free to reach out to us online or call us at (803) 649-5338.