North Carolina’s Pepper Spray Laws: An Overview

Pepper spray is a great defensive tool for citizens who need a less lethal option for self-defense that has more range than close-quarters weapons while still inflicting minimal or even no real injury on the target.

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Probably the best thing about pepper spray is that it is legal in all 50 states, and can be carried into many places where all other weapons cannot go.

But it is up to you to learn and understand the individual state laws governing pepper spray wherever you happen to live or visit.

Concerning North Carolina’s pepper spray laws, they are generally permissible except for a fairly stringent restriction on the capacity of the dispenser you can carry. You can learn all about North Carolina’s pepper spray laws here.

Your North Carolina Pepper Spray Passport

The following represents the most important, need to know parts of North Carolina’s pepper spray laws:

  • Self-defense sprays in North Carolina may not have a capacity exceeding 150cc.
  • All typical self-defense spray formulations are legal in North Carolina, including pepper spray and tear gas sprays as well as blends of both.
  • If you are a convicted felon or have had your civil right to own weapons removed you cannot possess pepper spray in North Carolina.

Can You Legally Carry Pepper Spray in North Carolina?

Yes. It is completely legal to possess and carry pepper spray, tear gas spray, or any other conventional self-defense spray in the state of North Carolina.

You may carry such sprays openly or concealed without the need for any concealed weapons permit or other special permission.

However, if you are a convicted felon or have any criminal record which has seen you lose your right to keep and bear arms you may not own or carry pepper spray or any other self-defense spray while in the state.

How Much Pepper Spray Can You Carry in North Carolina?

This is the major sticking point with North Carolina’s pepper spray laws, as they limit the capacity of any device or other dispenser carried by civilians to 150cc.

This is pretty generous compared to most other states with capacity restrictions and equates to about 5 ounces.

However, this will rule out the legal possession and carrying of larger canisters suitable for breaking up mobs or dealing with multiple assailants.

North Carolina statute 14-401.6 covers all of the relevant parts of the law regarding the definition and of tear gas sprays, including capacity limitations. The exact verbiage of the relevant part of the section is below for your review:

14-401.6. Unlawful to possess, etc., tear gas except for certain purposes.

(a) It is unlawful for any person, firm, corporation or association to possess, use, store, sell, or transport within the State of North Carolina, any form of that type of gas generally known as “tear gas,” or any container or device for holding or releasing that gas; except this section does not apply to the possession, use, storage, sale or transportation of that gas or any container or device for holding or releasing that gas:

(7) For use in the home for protection and elsewhere by individuals, who have not been convicted of a felony, for self-defense purposes only, as long as the capacity of any:

a. Tear gas device or container does not exceed 150 cubic centimeters,

(c) Tear gas for the purpose of this section shall mean any solid, liquid or gaseous substance or combinations thereof which will, upon dispersion in the atmosphere, cause tears in the eyes, burning of the skin, coughing, difficulty in breathing or any one or more of these reactions and which will not cause permanent damage to the human body, and the substance and container or device is designed, manufactured, and intended to be used as tear gas.

What Pepper Spray Formulas are Legal in North Carolina?

All common defensive spray formulations are legal in North Carolina, including OC, or genuine pepper spray, along with both typical tear gas formulations.

Do keep in mind, pretty much every self-defense spray is judged against the standard that it is designed to be non-lethal in normal use and that it does not cause any serious injury or permanent debilitation to the target.

This is another reason why it is so important that you choose a pepper spray or tear gas that has been manufactured by a reliable and respected company.

Any dodgy or less than upright makers of such products might put you at risk of serious civil and criminal liability if their product does cause permanent injury.

When Can You Legally Use Pepper Spray in North Carolina?

According to North Carolina law, you can use pepper spray in self-defense whenever you or another person are threatened with the imminent use of unlawful force against you, or against them.

However, your use of defensive force, in this case the pepper spray, must be proportional to the threat against you. It is never okay to pepper spray someone over a simple verbal altercation or anything like that.

Generally, if someone is threatening to punch you, strike you in some other way, or otherwise beat you up then pepper spray is likely a reasonable response so long as it appears as if the assailant will soon make good on their threat.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the strongest pepper spray you can carry in North Carolina?

You can carry pepper spray or tear gas of any potency while in North Carolina, so long as the solution is designed to be non-lethal and cause no permanent injuries or harm as detailed above.

Will you go to jail if you pepper spray someone?

It is certainly possible, yes. In any self-defense encounter requiring any amount of force, the ideal outcome is to be cleared by the police at the scene. However, this is unlikely, and will only become increasingly less likely as time goes on.

Pepper spray, though usually considered the minimal amount of force in the eyes of the law and the public at large, is still considered a defensive force.

Even if you are clearly the defender in the encounter it is fairly probable that you’ll be detained and possibly taken to jail.

Whether you are let out or must be bailed out, depending on the circumstances, this is something you must have a plan for.

Don’t assume that just because you pepper sprays someone instead of using a more serious and permanent defensive weapon you won’t face any legal consequences.

Is pepper spray considered a deadly weapon?

No, pepper spray is not considered a deadly weapon. In most states, North Carolina included, pepper spray has its own category as a defensive weapon, one separate from most deadly weapons in practice if not by explicit definition.


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