Defenses in North Carolina (Part Two)

In Criminal by GWAO

Entrapment occurs when a person is entrapped into committing a crime by a law enforcement officer or their agent. Inducing a defendant to commit a crime may be by persuasion, trickery or fraud. The intent to commit the crime must come from the law enforcement officer or agent, and any predisposition to commit the crime bars this defense. The burden is on the defendant, and they must admit to the criminal act. The prosecution may use Rule 404(b) evidence to show the defendant’s predisposition.

Necessity and duress are closely related. These defenses justify an action that would be a crime. Necessity is only available if the act was necessary to commit to save a life or relieve an individual from severe suffering. The action must be reasonable and no other alternatives available. Duress, on the other hand, is an act that is caused by the defendants reasonable fear that they would immediately suffer death or serious harm. Any opportunity to avoid the situation will negate the defense.

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Justification defenses include self-defense, defense of others and defense of property. Generally, use of force against another must be reasonably necessary to protect themselves, and the amount of force must be reasonable as well (which is a question for the jury).

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Deadly force is only justified if the person reasonably believes their acts are necessary to prevent their own death or great bodily harm, or in the lawful defense of another. The defendant cannot be the aggressor, but there is no duty to retreat unless the defendant attempts to use deadly force against a non-deadly threat. Reasonable non-deadly force may be used to protect property. Deadly force may be used in defense of a person’s home or residence, if the defendant reasonably believes the attacker intends to kill, inflict serious injury, or commit a felony in the residence. In contrast with most defenses, the State has the burden to prove that the defendant did not act in self-defense, beyond a reasonable doubt.

In part three, we will further explore these individual defenses.

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