State laws on the use of firearms in self-defense can be confusing. If you carry a firearm or own one at home and use it in self-defense against an intruder or attacker you should know how you stand with the law. If you kill someone in the incident, you could face a homicide charge unless you are covered by Alaska law on self-defense. The law has changed fairly recently, and makes it easier to defend yourself with deadly force if attacked, even outside your own home, without having to retreat. Every case is carefully considered by a prosecutor so there is no sure fire way of knowing whether you could be charged with a criminal offense or not.
Alaska’s ‘stand your ground’ legislation
Before 2013, the only situations in which you could legitimately use deadly force against someone you thought was attacking you and your life was in danger was if you were in your own home or at work. In most other situations, you would need to retreat before using a weapon. For example, if you were attacked by a robber in the street and the robber was waving a gun at you, you couldn’t just pull out your own gun and shoot to kill unless you ‘retreated’ first.
The law was tightened in 2013 to what has been called ‘stand your ground’ rules that now enable you to use deadly force without retreating under certain exacting situations. Stand your ground laws have been enacted in several other states and have resulted in some controversial legal decisions. The most well known of these cases was the killing of black teenager, Trayvon Martin, by George Zimmerman in 2012. The case was widely publicized and the eventual acquittal of Zimmerman was a subject of intense debate nationally. Another Florida case that hit the headlines was the killing of Markeis McGlockton in a Clearwater parking lot by Michael Drejka. Like the Zimmerman case, Drejka was judged not to have committed an offense because of Florida’s stand your ground law.
Alaska’s law on the use of deadly force
Alaska has different laws for the use of non-deadly force and deadly force. The difference is what you use and your intention when you defend yourself. If you are carrying a gun and use it against an attacker, such as a robber, or someone attempting a sexual assault, then this would be an example of the use of deadly force.
AS 11.81.335 states that you are allowed to defend yourself with deadly force if you feel that you need to defend yourself against imminent:
- robbery in any degree;
- serious physical injury;
- sexual assault in the first degree;
- sexual assault in the second degree;
- sexual abuse of a minor in the first degree.
Although this seems quite clear, the reality is that a violent or potentially violent encounter can be an emotionally stressful and frightening experience. Unless you have been used to experiences like this before, perhaps because of a police, security or military background, it could be easy to misjudge someone’s intentions and it’s hard to know exactly what to do when you have to make an on the spot decision. If you get it wrong, you may find yourself charged with anything from assault to homicide. There are many situations in which the law does not permit you to shoot to kill, such as when an intruder or attacker is actually fleeing, or if the intruder has broken into an uninhabited building.
If you have been accused of a crime, but believe you are innocent under Alaska’s stand your ground legislation, you should contact criminal defense attorney Scott Dattan, as soon as possible. He will vigorously defend your innocence, negotiate a plea bargain or will fight to represent you in court. You can contact the Law Office of Dattan Scott Dattan in Anchorage at 907-276-8008.