EvidenceProf Blog

Editor: Colin Miller
Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Stand in the Place Where You Live, Take 2: SC Stand Your Ground Law Applied in Innocent Bystander Case

I have written a few times about South Carolina's Stand Your Ground Law, also known as the Protection of Persons and Property Act. Today, that Act immunized a defendant from prosecution for

the 2010 shooting of Darrell Niles, 17, a Keenan High School student and basketball player, who was across the street in a car when Shannon Scott, then 33, fired his handgun. Shortly before, an SUV filled with youths who had been threatening his 15-year-old daughter drove by his house and they fired shots, according to testimony in the case.

Smith then saw Niles’ 1992 Honda, and, believing its occupants posed a danger, fired his gun from his front yard across the street, hitting Niles in the head with a .380 bullet, killing him instantly. No evidence indicated Niles was a threat to Scott or his daughter

Why was this the outcome? Well, let's look at the key provisions of the the Protection of Persons and Property Act.

As the Supreme Court of South Carolina noted in State v. Duncan,

The Act provides, “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....” S.C.Code Ann. § 16–11–420(A) (Supp.2010). The Act also states, “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.” S.C.Code Ann. § 16–11–420(B) (Supp.2010).

The Act further provides:

(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...; 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…. 

(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. S.C.Code Ann. § 16–11–440 (Supp.2010).

The immunity provision...provides: 

(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....S.C.Code Ann. § 16–11–450 (Supp.2010) (emphasis supplied).

And therein lies the answer to Scott's immunity: "the person against whom deadly force was used [wa]s [not] a law enforcement officer." Therefore, as long as he reasonably feared for his life, he was "justified" in using deadly force, regardless of whether his life was actually in danger and regardless of whether the victim was the source of that danger.



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