Self-Defense Laws: When and How Can You Legally Protect Yourself?

Based on principle, it is widely accepted that a person can protect themselves from harm given certain circumstances, even if the act would typically be considered unlawful. Under the United States legal system, states allow defendants to claim self-defense if they are accused of a violent crime. However, from one state to another, the exact rules on self-defense vary.

What Is Considered Self-Defense?

Self-defense is defined as someone defending themselves by responding to violence or force with violence or force.

This seems relatively straightforward; however, many questions are raised around this topic.  When someone defends themselves, the courts have a difficult time determining what qualifies as an appropriate level of violence or force. The courts consider the following when deciding what is appropriate:

  • Did the victim of a violent crime provoke the accused attacker?
  • Is there an obligation for the victim to retreat from the violent situation, if possible?
  • What happens when a victim feels there is a genuine threat against them, but no real threat exists?
  • Is the victim protected if they respond violently?

Understandably, self-defense law can be more complicated than it first appears. States have come up with various rules to determine under which circumstances self-defense is allowed and what amount of force a victim can use to protect themselves.

Is the Threat Imminent?

Generally, self-defense will only be justified with the use of force when it is in response to imminent force.

It must be certain that a threat will occur in order for it to be imminent. This threat can be made by using words if it puts the victim in immediate and reasonable fear of physical harm. However, offensive comments do not justify a person to use force in self-defense.

In addition, once the threat has ended, the use of physical force is no longer justified.

Was the Fear of Harm Reasonable?

Sometimes, even if the aggressor did not intend any harm, the self-defense from the victim is still legally justified. In these situations, what matters is whether a “reasonable person” in the same situation would have seen an immediate threat of physical harm.

“Stand Your Ground” or “Duty to Retreat”

Do you have the right to “stand your ground”, or do you have a “duty to retreat” from the threat of violence? In Alabama, the law states that you have the right to stand your ground in your home or workplace.

Get Legal Advice

There is much that goes into understanding the ins and outs of Alabama’s self-defense laws. If you have been the victim of a violent crime and had to use self-defense to protect yourself; contact The Law Firm of John M. Totten P.C. for a free consultation today.

John M. Totten