How to effectively claim immunity under South Carolina's "Stand Your Ground Law"
South Carolina's "Stand Your Ground" law, as it's commonly know, can be found in SC code 16-11-410 through 16-11-450. This law provides citizens charged with small level assaults even up to murder with immunity from criminal and civil prosecution if they have acted in accordance with the statute.
See if your client's actions are eligible for immunityThe client can claim immunity under 16-11-440(C) if he was acting lawfully, and attacked in a place where he had a right to be. If so, he can then you force for force, even deadly force, against the attacker. The key here is that he can't be committing a crime and then try to claim immunity if someone then attacks him. See State v. Isaac, 405 SC 177 (2013). If already inside the home, and someone tries to forcefully or unlawfully enter the home, then the client gets a presumption that they are in imminent fear of death or great bodily harm from that intruder, and they can use lethal force. See the seminal case on this in SC, State v. Duncan, 392 SC 404 (2011). Also see State v. Douglas, 2014 SC APP. Lexis 315 (2014) where the SC Court of Appeals has recently stated that 16-11-440(C) type immunity can apply to social guests who turn into attackers after originally being invited into the home.
If your client's are eligible for immunity then file for a hearingThe vehicle for claiming immunity under the Act is to hold a pretrial evidentiary hearing. This hearing would be held before the judge and the burden is on the defense to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that their client is immune. This usually comes through live testimony and other exhibits. The state then gets to respond to try to prove that your client is not entitled to immunity and then the judge rules. These hearings can sometimes last almost as long as the trial itself. It used to be that if the defense lost the hearing they could immediately appeal the court's decision to the Supreme Court; however, that has changed under State v. Isaac, where now the hearing is treated like any other pre-trial hearing. If the defense loses then the prosecution can immediately call the case to trial; however, if the the defense wins the immunity hearing then the prosecution can appeal that decision immediately.