Alabama’s Stand Your Ground
Recent events in the media have led me to question some of Alabama’s Stand Your Ground Laws and just where they might apply. So, what exactly are my rights in Alabama to defend myself? My property? My family? In 2006, Alabama passed the Stand Your Ground Law and it changed the way the Alabama viewed self-defense. Prior to the passing of Stand Your Ground, you had a DUTY to safely RETREAT from a threat. Today, you can literally, Stand Your Ground; you have no duty to retreat. A person is presumed under
Alabama Law to be justified in using deadly force if they are defending against imminent
physical harm to themselves or another. The appropriate code section to review this law is
Alabama Code §13A-3-23.
NOTE: You cannot use deadly force to defend property.
So, what is imminent physical harm? Well, it is defined as “immediate danger that will be
instantly met, and cannot be guarded against by calling for assistance of others or the
appearance of immediate danger or the appearance of threatened and impending injury that would put a reasonable person to their instant defense1.” If someone is breaking into your house or if you are on the street, you can defend yourself with lethal force as long as you are in a place you are legally entitled to be and are not the initial aggressor or breaking the law at the time of the event. If you are placed in threat of immediate physical threat, you can use whatever reasonable means to negate that threat. However, the word “reasonable” can be a bit tricky as it is a subjective standard. Every case is different and the facts of each particular case would dictate what is considered reasonable.
What Happens to Me if I Stand My Ground?
First and foremost, invoke your right to counsel and do not interview with the police.
You will not be thinking clearly and you leave the possibility of making a remark that
the investigators misinterpret.
Under the Alabama Code, a judge is given the ability to determine absolute immunity from
civil and criminal prosecution. When Stand Your Ground Law is pled by a defendant, a
hearing is conducted before any other trial to determine if your actions were reasonable
under the Stand your Ground Self-Defense Law; that you feared for your physical safety
and acted accordingly within reason to negate that threat. If the judge determines that your actions were reasonable then all criminal prosecution against you will stop and you will not go to trial. If the judge determines that you acted unreasonably, you will proceed to
trial and make your case to a jury of your peers. You have two chances to make your case; one to a judge and the second to a jury. Once self-defense is claimed, the State has to prove that you did not act in self-defense – beyond a reasonable doubt.
I hope you never find yourself having to Stand Your Ground, but if you do, call
Guntersville Law, LLC and let us guide you through the legal gauntlet.
1 Black’s Law Dictionary: https://thelawdictionary.org/imminent-danger/