Attempted murder charges have been filed against an Alabama man who reportedly fired off several shots at a deputy and a police officer.
Birmingham criminal defense lawyers understand that officers were called to the scene in order to locate a man reported to be suicidal.
It doesn’t appear the defendant was that person, but rather that police were searching for the subject either on or near the defendant’s property.
What may emerge as the most plausible defense in this case is self-defense.
According to media reports, the defendant said he heard a “commotion” from outside his home. It was about 2 a.m. at the time. He stepped onto his porch, where he saw a group of people in the darkness. He fired two shots in their direction.
What the 61-year-old may not have realized is that the “group” of people were two law enforcement officers.
The officers immediately took cover and were not struck, nor did they fire back.
The defendant retreated back into his home, though he did eventually emerge, riding out on his lawnmower to meet with officers at the end of his driveway.
Officers found a firearm tucked into his pants pocket, though he was arrested and taken into custody without any further incident.
Law enforcement officers also found the suicidal male near the property a short time later, and transported that individual to a hospital nearby for evaluation.
Attempted murder is a Class A felony.
According to Alabama Code 12A-4-2, attempted murder is essentially just what it says: An attempt to commit homicide. The law requires that you took at least one direct step toward killing someone else and that you intended to either kill the person or seriously harm them.
Here, the defendant may not have realized the men on or near his property were law enforcement officers. Therefore, it might be reasonable that, upon hearing and seeing them there at 2 a.m., unannounced, he might assume they were there to harm him.
Under Alabama’s Stand Your Ground law, also known as the Castle Doctrine, defined in Alabama Code 13A-3-23, a person has the right to use physical force to defend himself or a third person from what he reasonably believes could be the use or imminent use of unlawful physical force. This law maintains that the degree of force you use is one in which you believe is reasonably necessary under the circumstances.
Some circumstances in which this law would be applicable include:
- The belief that someone is or is about to use unlawful deadly force.
- The use or actual use of deadly force against a homeowner while the assailant is in the process of committing a home burglary or home invasion.
- If the assailant is committing or about to commit either kidnapping, assault, burglary, robbery, rape or sodomy.
The law does not apply if:
- The person against whom you are using physical force has a legal right to be in the home;
- The person sought to be removed is a child, grandchild or some family member in the legal custody of the person defending him or herself (in these cases, simple self-defense might apply);
- The person is justified in using physical force;
- The person against whom force is used is a law enforcement officer who is acting in performance of his or her official duties.
That last one is where this case might become snagged. But the fact remains: While the defendant NOW knows that those were officers on his property, and not burglars, there is a good likelihood he did not have that knowledge at the time of the incident. It was 2 a.m., it was dark and it does not appear the officers had announced themselves. It is therefore reasonable to assume that the force he used to deter them and defend himself was necessary.
Because attempted murder carries a possible life sentence, only an experienced criminal defense attorney should be trusted to defend such cases.