Castle Doctrine Law – Alaska

Castle doctrine is a crucial concept in US self defense law.

Broadly, castle doctrine laws state that one may use force, including deadly force, with the presumption of necessity if one is confronted with an intruder that is attempting to enter or has forcibly entered their home, place of business, other occupied dwelling or vehicle.

flag of Alaska
flag of Alaska

Castle doctrine is so named because a man’s home is supposed to be his castle, and retreating from one’s castle under obligation from the state is amoral and foolhardy.

Most states thankfully have castle doctrine laws on the books today, and one such state that has always been staunchly pro self-defense is the frontier state of Alaska.

This vast expanse suffers no pretenders when it comes to self-reliance, and that extends to its self-defense laws. Thankfully this includes what is in effect if not by specific name a castle doctrine statute.

This article will tell you everything you need to know about Alaska’s castle doctrine law and we have hopefully included the exact state statutes at the very end for you to review.

Fast Facts

  • Alaska’s self defense law specifically states that one may only use lethal force in defense of an occupied dwelling in order to prevent specific forcible felonies, burglary the threat of great bodily injury or death.
  • If one is acting under the specifications of the appropriate statutes, there is no obligation to retreat from one’s own home, place of business or temporary dwelling or other lodging.
  • If occupying a vehicle, one may use lethal force in self-defense with no obligation to retreat in order to prevent a carjack of any occupant of the vehicle that had occurred or is immediately likely to occur.

Overview of Castle Doctrine Law in Alaska

Alaska is one state that is definitely pro-self defense, but the laws are somewhat peculiar compared to many other states in the US.

The state in fact has a law on the books that mandates an obligation to retreat from a situation where at lethal force might otherwise be justified so long as one can do it with complete safety for both themselves and others in the situation.

However, it is then qualified by a laundry list of exceptions that makes it highly likely a person will have no duty to retreat whatsoever, so long as they are in a place where they have any lawful right to be.

Concerning castle doctrine in particular, a person has no obligation to retreat when occupying their own home, temporary lodging or place of business when someone is attempting to use force against them or another occupant that is likely to result in death or great bodily injury, attempting to kidnap someone from the structure or committing a number of other forcible felonies, namely burglary or robbery of any kind.

Other such forcible felonies that presume the justification of lethal force and self-defense include first and second degree sexual assault, and first degree sexual abuse of a minor.

Restrictions

Several. As mentioned above things start getting a little cloudy if a home or dwelling is not occupied, although so long as someone is in any place they have a legal, lawful right to be, or are in a place as the agent express or implied of the owner, there is no obligation to retreat so long as an unlawful lethal threat exists according to the standards above.

As always, you are far better off avoiding the use of lethal force entirely if one is able to do so prudently and safely, but in the remotest places of Alaska there might not be any help coming for quite some time.

Assessment

Alaska is a state that is rightly famous or perhaps infamous for its rugged, frontier lifestyle that mandates self-sufficiency and self-reliance.

Accordingly, Alaska’s own self-defense laws are strongly on the side of the defender so long as they are defending themselves, loved ones or others from a genuine threat. There is no obligation to retreat from one’s own home, dwelling, place of business or vehicle under the state’s de facto castle doctrine law.

However, depending on the specific circumstances one might have an obligation to retreat from a threat if it can be done with complete safety if one happens to be outside any of these structures or a vehicle.

Relevant Alaska Castle Doctrine Statutes

Sec. 11.81.900. Definitions.

(2) a person acts “knowingly” with respect to conduct or to a circumstance described by a provision of law defining an offense when the person is aware that the conduct is of that nature or that the circumstance exists; when knowledge of the existence of a particular fact is an element of an offense, that knowledge is established if a person is aware of a substantial probability of its existence, unless the person actually believes it does not exist; a person who is unaware of conduct or a circumstance of which the person would have been aware had that person not been intoxicated acts knowingly with respect to that conduct or circumstance;

(3) a person acts “recklessly” with respect to a result or to a circumstance described by a provision of law defining an offense when the person is aware of and consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the result will occur or that the circumstance exists; the risk must be of such a nature and degree that disregard of it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable person would observe in the situation; a person who is unaware of a risk of which the person would have been aware had that person not been intoxicated acts recklessly with respect to that risk;

(…)

(2) “affirmative defense” means that

(A) some evidence must be admitted which places in issue the defense; and

(B) the defendant has the burden of establishing the defense by a preponderance of the evidence;

(…)

(15) “dangerous instrument” means

(A) any deadly weapon or anything that, under the circumstances in which it is used, attempted to be used, or threatened to be used, is capable of causing death or serious physical injury; or

(B) hands, other body parts, or other objects when used to impede normal breathing or circulation of blood by applying pressure on the throat or neck or obstructing the nose or mouth;

(16) “deadly force” means force that the person uses with the intent of causing, or uses under circumstances that the person knows create a substantial risk of causing, death or serious physical injury; “deadly force” includes intentionally discharging or pointing a firearm in the direction of another person or in the direction in which another person is believed to be and intentionally placing another person in fear of imminent serious physical injury by means of a dangerous instrument;

(17) “deadly weapon” means any firearm, or anything designed for and capable of causing death or serious physical injury, including a knife, an axe, a club, metal knuckles, or an explosive;

(…)

Sec. 11.81.300. Justification: Defense.

Except as otherwise specified in this title, justification as provided in AS 11.81.320 – 11.81.430 is a defense.

Sec. 11.81.320. Justification: Necessity.

(a) Conduct which would otherwise be an offense is justified by reason of necessity to the extent permitted by common law when

(1) neither this title nor any other statute defining the offense provides exemptions or defenses dealing with the justification of necessity in the specific situation involved; and

(2) a legislative intent to exclude the justification of necessity does not otherwise plainly appear.

(b) The justification specified in (a) of this section is an affirmative defense.

Sec. 11.81.335. Justification: Use of deadly force in defense of self.

(a) Except as provided in (b) of this section, a person who is justified in using nondeadly force in self-defense under AS 11.81.330 may use deadly force in self-defense upon another person when and to the extent the person reasonably believes the use of deadly force is necessary for self-defense against

(1) death;

(2) serious physical injury;

(3) kidnapping, except for what is described as custodial interference in the first degree in AS 11.41.320;

(4) sexual assault in the first degree;

(5) sexual assault in the second degree;

(6) sexual abuse of a minor in the first degree; or

(7) robbery in any degree.

(b) A person may not use deadly force under this section if the person knows that, with complete personal safety and with complete safety as to others being defended, the person can avoid the necessity of using deadly force by leaving the area of the encounter, except there is no duty to leave the area if the person is

(1) on premises

(A) that the person owns or leases;

(B) where the person resides, temporarily or permanently; or

(C) as a guest or express or implied agent of the owner, lessor, or resident;

(2) a peace officer acting within the scope and authority of the officer’s employment or a person assisting a peace officer under AS 11.81.380;

(3) in a building where the person works in the ordinary course of the person’s employment;

(4) protecting a child or a member of the person’s household; or

(5) in any other place where the person has a right to be.

Sec. 11.81.350. Justification: Use of force in defense of property and premises.

(a) A person may use nondeadly force upon another when and to the extent the person reasonably believes it is necessary to terminate what the person reasonably believes to be the commission or attempted commission by the other of an unlawful taking or damaging of property or services.

(b) A person may use deadly force upon another when and to the extent the person reasonably believes it necessary to terminate what the person reasonably believes to be the commission or attempted commission of arson upon a dwelling or occupied building.

(c) A person in possession or control of any premises, or a guest or an express or implied agent of that person, may use

(1) nondeadly force upon another when and to the extent the person reasonably believes it is necessary to terminate what the person reasonably believes to be the commission or attempted commission by the other of criminal trespass in any degree upon the premises;

(2) deadly force upon another when and to the extent the person reasonably believes it is necessary to terminate what the person reasonably believes to be a burglary in any degree occurring in an occupied dwelling or building.

(d) [Repealed, § 7 ch 68 SLA 2006.]

(e) A person

(1) in a vehicle, or forcibly removed from a vehicle, may use deadly force upon another when and to the extent the person reasonably believes it is necessary to terminate what the person reasonably believes to be a carjacking of that vehicle at or about the time the vehicle is carjacked;

(2) outside of a vehicle may use deadly force upon another when and to the extent the person reasonably believes it is necessary to terminate what the person reasonably believes to be the theft of that vehicle when another person, other than the perceived offender, is inside of the vehicle; this paragraph does not apply to a person outside of a vehicle who is involved in a dispute with a person inside of the vehicle who is a household member of that person; in this paragraph, “household member” has the meaning given in AS 18.66.990.

(f) A person justified in using force under this section does not have a duty to leave or attempt to leave the area of the encounter before using force.

(g) In (e) of this section,

(1) “carjacking” means a robbery involving the taking or attempted taking of a vehicle from a person in possession of the vehicle;

(2) “vehicle” means a “motor vehicle” as defined in AS 28.90.990, an aircraft, or a watercraft.

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