What’s the Procedure for a “Stand Your Ground” Hearing in SC?

What is the procedure for a stand-your-ground hearing in SC?

You have the right to defend yourself – sometimes. You also have the right to “stand your ground” – sometimes. How does SC’s stand-your-ground law work and what are the rules in SC?

Below, we will discuss:

  • The procedure for a stand-your-ground hearing in SC,
  • The elements of self-defense,
  • The added protections of SC’s Protection of Persons and Property Act, and
  • How the self-defense laws and Protection of Persons and Property Act work when you plead self-defense in SC.

What is a “Stand Your Ground” Hearing?

A stand-your-ground hearing is a pretrial hearing where the court decides whether you are entitled to immunity from prosecution based on SC’s self-defense laws or SC’s Protection of Persons and Property Act.

First, the court should determine whether self-defense or any other “applicable provision of law” applies to the facts of the defendant’s case. If they do not, then the court should analyze the facts of the case under SC’s Protection of Persons and Property Act (stand your ground law) to determine whether immunity should be granted.

If the court denies immunity at the stand-your-ground hearing, the defendant can still present evidence of self-defense to the jurors during the trial.

Elements of Self-Defense in SC

What are the rules of self-defense in SC? The defendant must prove that:

  1. They were “without fault in bringing on the difficulty,”
  2. They were “in actual imminent danger of losing [their] life or sustaining serious bodily injury,” or had a reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury,
  3. A “reasonably prudent person of ordinary firmness and courage” would have believed that they were in imminent danger and the “fatal blow” was necessary to save themselves from death or serious bodily harm, and
  4. There was “no other probable means of avoiding the danger” (often referred to as the “duty to retreat”) (See State v. Guderyon).

Other rules of self-defense in SC include:

  • The Castle Doctrine – there is no duty to retreat if a person is attacked in their home, and
  • Defense of Others – you are legally justified in defending another person from death or serious bodily injury if the elements of self-defense are met for the other person.

How Does SC’s Stand Your Ground Law Work?

The Protection of Persons and Property Act provides three additional protections, including:

No duty to retreat under Section 16-11-440(C) when a person is attacked in a place they have a right to be:

A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in another place where he has a right to be, including, but not limited to, his place of business, has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force, if he reasonably believes it is necessary to prevent death or great bodily injury to himself or another person or to prevent the commission of a violent crime as defined in Section 16-1-60.

A presumption that deadly force is justified under Section 16-11-440(A) when someone is unlawfully and forcefully entering or attempting to remove a person against their will from a home or vehicle:

(A) A person is presumed to have a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily injury to himself or another person when using deadly force that is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily injury to another person if the person:

(1) against whom the deadly force is used is in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering, or has unlawfully and forcibly entered a dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle, or if he removes or is attempting to remove another person against his will from the dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle; and

(2) who uses deadly force knows or has reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry or unlawful and forcible act is occurring or has occurred.

Immunity from criminal prosecution and civil lawsuits under SC Code 16-11-450:

(A) A person who uses deadly force as permitted by the provisions of this article or another applicable provision of law is justified in using deadly force and is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action for the use of deadly force unless the person against whom deadly force was used is a law enforcement officer acting in the performance of his official duties and he identifies himself in accordance with applicable law or the person using deadly force knows or reasonably should have known that the person is a law enforcement officer.

(B) A law enforcement agency may use standard procedures for investigating the use of deadly force as described in subsection (A), but the agency may not arrest the person for using deadly force unless probable cause exists that the deadly force used was unlawful.

(C) The court shall award reasonable attorneys’ fees, court costs, compensation for loss of income, and all expenses incurred by the defendant in defense of a civil action brought by a plaintiff if the court finds that the defendant is immune from prosecution as provided in subsection (A).

What’s the Procedure for a Stand Your Ground Hearing in SC?

How does it work, though? How do you 1) raise self-defense as a defense to criminal charges and 2) get immunity at a pretrial stand-your-ground hearing?

First, you must request a pretrial stand-your-ground hearing (See State v. Glenn).

The trial court will hear your evidence and then decide – by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not) – whether you have proven the elements of self-defense or another applicable provision of law that would entitle you to self-defense (defense of others or the Castle Doctrine, for example).

If the court finds that you were acting in self-defense, the court should grant immunity and dismiss your charges.

If the court does not find that you were acting in self-defense, then the court should consider the facts presented at the stand-your-ground hearing in light of the Protection of Persons and Property Act – were you in a place you had a right to be (there is no duty to retreat) or was the attacker unlawfully and forcefully entering or trying to remove someone from a home or vehicle (then the reasonable fear element is presumed)?

Second, if immunity is denied at your stand-your-ground hearing, you can still present your evidence of self-defense at trial.

If you provide some evidence of each element of self-defense, the burden then shifts to the prosecution to disprove self-defense beyond any reasonable doubt, and the jurors receive a jury instruction from the court that they must acquit you of the charges if the state has not disproven self-defense.

Questions About Stand Your Ground Hearings?

Charleston, SC criminal defense attorney Grant B. Smaldone has extensive experience defending clients charged with violent crimes, including murder and manslaughter, SC’s self-defense rules, and SC’s stand-your-ground laws.

Call now at (843) 808-2100 or send an email to talk to a Charleston defense lawyer today.