SC Supreme Court Watch: The “Protection of Persons and Property Act”

In 2006, the General Assembly enacted the “Protection of Persons and Property Act” (SC Code Sections 16-11-410 to 450) “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.” S.C. Code Ann. § 16-11-420(A). The Act grants immunity from prosecution to a person exercising self-defense in certain circumstances and may apply in to allegations of murder, attempted murder, voluntary manslaughter, and assault and battery.

In the seven years since the act was adopted, there have been very few appellate court cases interpreting it. These cases include:

Other sections of the Act, however, do create substantive protections. In June, our Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two cases involving the act. State v. Ortiz challenges a trial court order finding that a defendant was not attacked on his property, was not engaged in a lawful activity, and the use of deadly force was not necessary to prevent death or great bodily injury. State v. Gregory challenges the trial court’s analysis of the self-defense arguments and interpretations of Sections 16-11-440 and 450. Decisions in these cases are likely to provide more guidance in interpreting the “Protection of Persons and Property Act.”

The “Protection of Persons and Property Act” may very well have repealed the common law duty to retreat for a person in a “place where he has a right to be.” Under the common law, a person is excluded from the duty to retreat only at home or in situations where retreating would increase the danger of serious injury or death.

Please click on of these links to read State v. Duncan, State v. Bolin, State v. Marin, and the Supreme Court’s Rooster of cases for June 2013.

Preview: Please check back later this year for a blog post discussing why South Carolina’s self-defense jury instruction is obsolete and should be replaced.

About SC Supreme Court Watch:  SC Supreme Court Watch is a recurring series dedicated to identifying potentially significant criminal law issues pending before the Court and reporting administrative actions by the Court involving our state’s criminal justice system.