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Criminal Defenses in Alabama: Understanding the Defense of Property

What Constitutes Defense of Property in Alabama?

The law of defense of property in Huntsville and Madison County justifies a defendant's use of reasonable force against another person to protect their premises or personal property from immediate danger. 

Common scenarios where this defense may apply include home invasions, trespassers on a property, and thefts. 

The application of defense of property is more narrow than self-defense or defense of others.  Reasonable force is a standard element of the defense of property as a defense.

At Segal and Segal, our attorneys in Alabama will review your case, outline your best options, and advocate for your rights and interests. Contact us online or at (256) 533 - 4529 to schedule a consultation.  

Reasonable Force

Where a defendant claims defense of property, their use of force must be reasonable and not excessive. The force is reasonable when another reasonable person in the same circumstances as the defendant would believe the force was necessary to protect the property. 

Lethal and Non-Lethal Force

Regarding the defense of property, the law often distinguishes between lethal (deadly) force and non-lethal (non-deadly) force. Lethal force is any action likely to cause significant bodily harm or death. 

For example, if a person simply enters the defendant's backyard without permission, it's unlikely the defendant could shoot the trespasser and argue the defense of property. However, if an armed person entered the backyard where the defendant's children were playing, the defendant may be justified in using lethal force to defend their children. 

Burden of Proof for Defense of Property Claim in Alabama

Like self-defense and defense of others, the defense of property is an affirmative defense. This involves the defendant admitting to the alleged violent act while presenting a legal justification for their actions. 

In a criminal case in Huntsville and Madison County, the prosecution must prove each charge element against the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt.  

In Alabama, if a defendant argues defense of property, the burden of proof is on the defendant to prove it. 

Examples of Alabama Defense of Property

If a defendant is charged with assault for pushing a trespasser off their property, they may be able to argue the defense of property. If the trespasser refused to leave despite being asked to do so and the defendant's actions were reasonable and proportionate, they would not be criminally liable because they were acting in defense of their property. 

However, if, in the same scenario, the defendant pulled out a gun, shooting and wounding the trespasser, it is questionable if the defendant could successfully argue the defense of property. Aside from the fact the defendant used lethal force, their actions might not be considered a reasonable response or proportionate. 

Having someone who knows the law and has strong defense skills on your side will help make the process go as smoothly as possible. Contact Segal and Segal online or at (256) 533 - 4529 to schedule a consultation.