Some aspects of Alabama’s self-defense law were redesigned in 2006 when state legislators passed their version of a “Stand Your Ground” law in relation to the amount of force that can be used in circumstances requiring self-defense. It is important to understand the provisions of this law, especially for persons that might be facing serious criminal charges related to self-defense. As always, a Birmingham criminal defense attorney can provide tailored advocacy if you face any gun charges.
Basics of “Stand Your Ground” in Alabama
Use of force in self-defense is generally presumed to be legal when that force is necessary to prevent imminent harm or injury to one’s self or another, and is covered by Alabama law §13A-3-23. An extremely important aspect of self-defense law is that the person acting in self-defense cannot be the original aggressor. In other words, a person claiming self-defense must have already been harmed in some way or must have a legitimate belief that serious harm may occur with the use of physical force in a self-defense context. In Alabama, physical force is not allowed if the person using such force is themselves engaged in an illegal activity like breaking and entering. In other words, if you are in the act of committing a crime and use physical force in order to protect yourself from someone that is trying to prevent you from committing that crime, the law does not provide a defense for your use of that force.
Similarly, physical force cannot be used against a law enforcement officer who is acting in the line of duty. The law also requires a person’s self-defense response to be appropriate given the context of the circumstances in which it is being used. In other words, the law will not provide a defense for someone that uses deadly force to stop someone from, say, stealing an apple from a neighbor’s tree or suspiciously walking up and down a residential block.
Typically, physical force used in the context of self-defense is not usually a criminal offense as people have the right to defend themselves from an aggressor. This law takes away the necessity of a person to attempt to retreat from a situation that may call for the use of physical or deadly force in the context of self-defense. There are several circumstances in which the law allows a person to use deadly force for self-defense purposes, including:
- When a person reasonably believes that another is about to use unlawful deadly force;
- When a person reasonably believes that a burglar is about to use physical force;
- When a person is engaged in the act of rape, kidnapping, assault, or robbery; and/or
- When a person attempts to unlawfully enter a home or vehicle, or attempts to remove a person from such in order to occupy it.
There are many nuances to each of these situations that may affect the outcome of the use of the law to defend against the use of extreme physical or deadly force. There are also exceptions to the use of such force depending on the exact circumstances of the situation in which such force may have been used. Understanding these nuances is extremely important, and often requires the advice of an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Contact a Birmingham Criminal Defense Attorney
Ultimately, successfully invoking this law as a defense to the use of extreme physical or deadly force in the context of self-defense can be tricky and will depend upon many circumstances specific to the situation in which such self-defense was used. Even in cases where extreme physical or deadly force for self-defense may be required and protected by law, it is still possible for someone to be indicted on charges related to the use of such self-defense methods. Like many laws, not every situation that this law covers are straightforward.
Defending against charges related to potentially legitimate use of extreme physical or deadly force for self-defense purposes requires a criminal defense attorney that has experience defending against murder, manslaughter, assault, and other charged potentially related to self-defense. A successful criminal defense could mean the difference between exoneration and many years behind bars.