There’s an old saying that “violence begets violence.” For the most part, that’s true — especially when someone is put into a position where they feel like they have no choice but to aggressively defend themselves against harm by another.

But do you actually have the right to violently attack someone in your own defense? In some states, people have a legal duty to retreat in the face of a threat whenever possible — and North Carolina was once like that, as well. Now, however, North Carolina has “Stand Your Ground” laws on the books.

Those laws greatly broaden the right of any private citizen to defend themselves and others from the imminent, unlawful threat of violence in the workplace, in their car or in their home. People also have the right to forcefully protect others from an imminent attack.

There are some exceptions to the rule, naturally. You cannot, for example, use force against an officer of the law or bail bondsman who was acting lawfully (so long as they identify themselves or you have another reason to know who they are). You also can’t use force against someone who attempted to break into your car or home if they stop or try to run away. Nor do you have any right to “stand your ground” if you were the initial aggressor in the altercation.

Unfortunately, the events surrounding a violent altercation can often be murky — and both sides may claim they were in the right. That can lead to unfair charges of assault and battery. If you find yourself charged with a crime after defending yourself or another, take all the necessary steps to protect your interests. An experienced Asheville defense attorney can help.