As a criminal defense law firm with offices in Lexington and Columbia, we've had many clients before whose cases involve self-defense.
South Carolina has a strong legal tradition of recognizing self-defense in situations ranging from misdemeanor assaults through murder. When self-defense is successfully raised, it can result in a pre-trial dismissal or a verdict of not-guilty.
Self-defense can be raised with the prosecutor in an effort to seek a pre-trial dismissal of charges. If evidence can be shown to the prosecutor that indicates that self-defense applies then that may be used as justification to dismiss a charge altogether, or reduce the severity or sentence through a plea-bargain.
In the event that a charge is not reduced or dismissed to our client's satisfaction (to whatever degree out client believes is in their best interest), then the best option is usually to fully contest the charge in court.
Raising self-defense in the courtroom is made by providing the court with any evidence that self-defense may apply. Once this is done the prosecutor must now prove beyond a reasonable-doubt that self-defense is not applicable. If the prosecutor cannot meet this burden the only proper verdict is not-guilty.
Where does evidence of self-defense come from?
Before stepping into the courtroom it is important for the defense to determine if self-defense might apply. If so, then that aspect of the case should be prepared for.
Frequently the defense cannot rely on the police investigation to establish self-defense as a viable strategy. After all, if the police had recognized evidence of self-defense it wouldn't be expected that they would have ever made the arrest in the first place.
Instead it is routinely necessary to obtain the services of professional defense investigators and experts to challenge the police narrative of guilt. This can help develop the necessary evidence to successfully argue self-defense.
Protection of Persons and Property Act
South Carolina's "Stand Your Ground" Law
South Carolina's right to self-defense has also been codified in the Protection of Persons and Property Act, S.C. Code § 16-11-410, et seq. This law can protect you against both a criminal prosecution or a civil lawsuit. This is very significant, and it means that when this defense can be successfully established to the satisfaction of the court, it can prevent a subsequent trial in either civil or criminal court.
Not only can this statute be used to provide a defense in major cases (such as murder or manslaughter), but it can also be used to defend against charges of assault in either General Sessions or misdemeanor court.