Contact Us for a Free Consultation (256) 533-4529

Criminal Defenses in Alabama: Understanding Self-Defense

What is Self Defense in Huntsville and Madison County?

Self-defense is a legal defense against a violent crime. It justifies a defendant's use of force against another person, on the basis they were protecting themselves against an imminent threat of harm or death.

The defense attorneys at Segal and Segal understand how challenging it is to face criminal charges in Alabama. Is self-defense the appropriate defense for you? The specific requirements and restrictions to apply self-defense in criminal cases can vary between states. Some common concepts are explained below, and by calling us at (256) 533 4529, we can explain more during a consultation. 

Imminent Threat

Self-defense usually requires the defendant to be in fear of immediate harm. This harm could be a verbal or actual threat of physical harm, although offensive words alone are not enough. Once the threat ends, the harm is no longer imminent, and the defendant cannot rely on self-defense. 

Reasonable Fear of Harm

The defendant's fear of harm must also be reasonable. To assess this, the jury considers whether an ordinary and reasonable person in the same situation would have also believed there was an imminent threat of harm. If the answer is no, then self-defense does not apply, although imperfect self-defense may be available to the defendant. 

Proportionate Response

The defendant's use of force cannot be excessive; it must be proportionate to the threat. For example, if a victim raises their hand to slap a defendant and the defendant shoots at them, this would be an excessive response. For lethal force to be proportionate and therefore justified, the defendant usually must be in fear of death. 

Castle Doctrine

Alabama has removed the duty to retreat when a defendant faces an intruder in their home. The castle doctrine permits a defendant to use potentially lethal force in this situation without first attempting to escape the situation. 

Stand Your Ground

Alabama gives the defendant the right to “stand their ground” and resort to using force if they're being threatened or assaulted, even in a public place, without first attempting to escape the harm. 

Burden of Proof for Huntsville and Madison County Self-Defense Claim

Self-defense is an affirmative defense. This means the defendant admits to doing the violent act but argues there was a legal justification for it. 

In criminal cases, the onus is on the prosecution to prove each element of an offense beyond a reasonable doubt. In Alabama, if a defendant wants to argue self-defense, the burden of proof moves to them to prove self-defense. 

In Alabama, a defendant may raise self-defense, and the burden then shifts back to the prosecution to prove the defendant did not act in self-defense.

By calling Segal and Segal at (256) 533 4529 and scheduling a consultation, we can further explain self-defense as an appropriate tool for defending against any possible criminal charges.