How far is too far when it comes to protecting yourself or your property?

- A local business owner took matters into his own hands when he was alerted about an intruder breaking into his store.

He called 911, drove to the business, and shot the suspect before police arrived. The question is-- did he legally cross the line, or were his actions justifiable?

FOX 46 set out to find answers on what you can legally do to protect yourself.

"We have 50 states in the union," said Hyatt Gun Shop Law Enforcement Sales Manager Roger Ayscue.  "All 50 states have different gun laws."

So, when it comes to North Carolina laws, how much do you *really* know?

"Education is the key to safety," Ayscue said.  "I would suggest anyone who is going to arm themselves actually look up and read what the law says."

"There are a lot of decisions that have to be made in a split second," said Hyatt Gun Shop Owner Larry Hyatt.

In North Carolina, under the "Castle Doctrine,” people are given the right to use deadly force to defend their homes, vehicles or jobs from an imminent threat.

"North Carolina law does not now, nor did it ever, give you permission to use deadly force to protect STUFF," said Ayscue.  "So you can't use deadly force to prevent someone from stealing your television-- but you CAN use it to prevent loss of life, serious bodily damage, or sexual assault."

So basically, if a suspect has already left your property-- you cannot legally use deadly force.

"If that person is fleeing or leaving, you're probably not in danger anymore," said Hyatt.  "And that is gonna be a bad decision."

The Castle Doctrine Law isn't to be confused with Florida's "Stand Your Ground Law," which says a person is justified in using deadly force to defend themselves against an imminent threat or great bodily harm-- regardless of where they are.

"For North Carolina, you do not have to retreat or run away and you don't have to actually see a weapon to perceive a threat," said Ayscue.  "Stand your ground is the last part-- you don't need to see a weapon, you just need to be in fear of your life or serious bodily harm."

For anyone who plans to own and operate a gun-- it's critical to become familiar with the laws first.
"Just a little bit of preparation can stop a whole lot of grief later," said Ayscue.

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