Castle Doctrine Law: South Carolina

Castle Doctrine laws or statutes are those which define a person’s home, even a temporary home, as they’re castle, a place that they are allowed to defend from violent intruders with no obligation to the state or to other parties to retreat before doing so.

flag of South Carolina

Once a hot button topic in the United States, Castle Doctrine laws have gone on to be nearly ubiquitous and in place by name or by precedent in most U.S. states.

South Carolina is one such state, and is possessed of honorable distinction in having some of the best, strongest and clearest Castle Doctrine laws on the books out of any state that has them.

There is much good news to report about South Carolina and regards to self-defense and Castle Doctrine law in particular.

We will cover all of the basics in this article below to bring you up to speed and have thoughtfully included the exact text of the state statutes at the end of this article so you can read them for yourself.

Fast Facts

  • A defender’s use of lethal force is justified under South Carolina law when it is used in response to the unlawful and forcible entry of their home, place of business, vehicle (if occupied), or temporary residence.
  • A defender may also use lethal force to prevent the imminent or ongoing use of force against themselves or some other occupant of a dwelling or vehicle if faced with a threat of death, great bodily injury or the commission of any other violent crime.
  • The state of South Carolina presumes in the above cases that a defender is acting with a reasonable fear of death or great bodily injury if they are trying to prevent forcible entry to the home, business, vehicle or temporary dwelling.

Overview of Castle Doctrine Law in South Carolina

There is very little confusing verbiage throughout South Carolina’s self-defense laws, and the lawmakers in this state are to be commended for that.

Broadly, anytime a person is legally, lawfully occupying their own residence, their place of business, a vehicle or any other temporary place of dwelling, whether permanent or not, they have a right to defend themselves using lethal force against anyone who would unlawfully and forcibly enter that space. In such instances, the state of South Carolina presumes that the defender is possessed of a reasonable fear of death or great bodily injury.

Specifically, if a person attempts to forcibly end unlawfully enter the home, dwelling or vehicle, or to remove anyone from within, a defender may use lethal force in response to such a threat.

Again, in such an instance the state presumes that the person entering unlawfully is doing so with the express intent of causing death or gray bodily injury. Additionally, a defender in the same circumstances may use lethal force to stop an imminent forcible entry for the same purposes.

Assuming that the defender acted within the confines of the law and justly, South Carolina will hold them immune from criminal and civil prosecution.

Restrictions

The use of lethal force and self-defense is serious business, and no matter how pro defense state laws are there are always restrictions about its use.

Specifically, in South Carolina a person may not use lethal force in defense and may not claim protection via Castle Doctrine against anyone who would attempt entry to a structure or dwelling or vehicle is authorized to also occupy it or has a legal, lawful right to enter.

Additionally, someone who is attempting to remove a child, grandchild or dependent from a structure and is legally permitted to do so may not we stopped with force or lethal force under the law.

Lastly, any person who would claim the use of force or lethal force justifiable by way of defense under the law must not have been engaged or underway in the commission of any illegal activity.

Assessment

Castle Doctrine law is alive, present and accounted for in South Carolina. If any person is legally and lawfully occupying a home, temporary dwelling, place of business or vehicle they have a right to defend themselves and anyone else inside from an attempted or ongoing illegal enforceable entry of the premises.

Defenders may also use legal force in defense of an occupied dwelling or vehicle with the presumption of fear of death or great bodily injury to prevent the commission of any other violent crime.

Relevant South Carolina Castle Doctrine Statutes

Section 16-11-310. Definitions.

For purposes of Sections 16-11-311 through 16-11-313:

(1) “Building” means any structure, vehicle, watercraft, or aircraft:

(a) Where any person lodges or lives; or

(b) Where people assemble for purposes of business, government, education, religion, entertainment, public transportation, or public use or where goods are stored. Where a building consists of two or more units separately occupied or secured, each unit is deemed both a separate building in itself and a part of the main building.

(2) “Dwelling” means its definition found in Section 16-11-10 and also means the living quarters of a building which is used or normally used for sleeping, living, or lodging by a person.

(3) “Enters a building without consent” means:

(a) To enter a building without the consent of the person in lawful possession; or

(b) To enter a building by using deception, artifice, trick, or misrepresentation to gain consent to enter from the person in lawful possession.

Section 16-11-410. Citation of article.

This article may be cited as the “Protection of Persons and Property Act”.

Section 16-11-420. Intent and findings of General Assembly.

(A) It is the intent of the General Assembly to codify the common law Castle Doctrine which recognizes that a person’s home is his castle and to extend the doctrine to include an occupied vehicle and the person’s place of business.

(B) The General Assembly finds that it is proper for law-abiding citizens to protect themselves, their families, and others from intruders and attackers without fear of prosecution or civil action for acting in defense of themselves and others.

(C) The General Assembly finds that Section 20, Article I of the South Carolina Constitution guarantees the right of the people to bear arms, and this right shall not be infringed.

(D) The General Assembly finds that persons residing in or visiting this State have a right to expect to remain unmolested and safe within their homes, businesses, and vehicles.

(E) The General Assembly finds that no person or victim of crime should be required to surrender his personal safety to a criminal, nor should a person or victim be required to needlessly retreat in the face of intrusion or attack.

Section 16-11-430. Definitions.

As used in this article, the term:

(1) “Dwelling” means a building or conveyance of any kind, including an attached porch, whether the building or conveyance is temporary or permanent, mobile or immobile, which has a roof over it, including a tent, and is designed to be occupied by people lodging there at night.

(2) “Great bodily injury” means bodily injury which creates a substantial risk of death or which causes serious, permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member or organ.

(3) “Residence” means a dwelling in which a person resides either temporarily or permanently or is visiting as an invited guest.

(4) “Vehicle” means a conveyance of any kind, whether or not motorized, which is designed to transport people or property.

Section 16-11-440. Presumption of reasonable fear of imminent peril when using deadly force against another unlawfully entering residence, occupied vehicle or place of business.

(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.

(B) The presumption provided in subsection (A) does not apply if the person:

(1) against whom the deadly force is used has the right to be in or is a lawful resident of the dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle including, but not limited to, an owner, lessee, or titleholder; or

(2) sought to be removed is a child or grandchild, or is otherwise in the lawful custody or under the lawful guardianship, of the person against whom the deadly force is used; or

(3) who uses deadly force is engaged in an unlawful activity or is using the dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle to further an unlawful activity; or

(4) against whom the deadly force is used is a law enforcement officer who enters or attempts to enter a dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle in the performance of his official duties, and he identifies himself in accordance with applicable law or the person using force knows or reasonably should have known that the person entering or attempting to enter is a law enforcement officer.

(C) 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.

(D) A person who unlawfully and by force enters or attempts to enter a person’s dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle is presumed to be doing so with the intent to commit an unlawful act involving force or a violent crime as defined in Section 16-1-60.

(E) A person who by force enters or attempts to enter a dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle in violation of an order of protection, restraining order, or condition of bond is presumed to be doing so with the intent to commit an unlawful act regardless of whether the person is a resident of the dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle including, but not limited to, an owner, lessee, or titleholder.

Section 16-11-450. Immunity from criminal prosecution and civil actions; law enforcement officer

(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).

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