Stand Your Ground / Self-Defense Laws in Alaska

Citizens concerned with self-defense are wise to inquire if their state of residence has what is popularly known as stand-your-ground laws on the books.

The colloquial term for laws of this nature hint at their intended purpose: if a citizen is forced to defend themselves or someone else from a lethal threat, stand your ground laws enable them to do exactly that with no obligation to attempt to retreat before hand in most circumstances. In effect, these laws spare citizens from attempting a potentially risky escape when the time has come to stand and deliver.

flag of Alaska

Alaska is a state with strong stand-your-ground laws, and citizens will have absolutely no obligation to retreat from an imminent threat so long as they are in any place they have a legal right to be under the circumstances. In short, so long as you are not breaking the law already before the attack takes place you will need not attempt retreat and potentially get cut down for your trouble.

Below you will find a summary of the most important points concerning Alaska’s “stand your ground” law and included at the end of this article is the exact text of the most relevant statutes for your review.

What You Need to Know

  • Alaska allows the use of lethal force in response to a threat of death or great bodily injury against one’s person or someone else.
  • Certain forcible felonies also justify the use of lethal force in defense, including robbery, sexual assault in the 1st or 2nd degree, kidnapping and sexual abuse of a child.
  • Alaska’s self-defense statutes make clear that one has no duty to retreat from any property they have legal rights to occupy, or from any place they have a legal right to be.

General Provisions

Alaska provides a justification for the use of lethal force if a citizen believes that the use of that force is necessary to prevent the possible death or great bodily injury of themselves or someone else.

The use of lethal force is also justified when it is employed to prevent the commission of certain forcible felonies, namely any sort of robbery, sexual assault in the first or second degree, kidnapping or the sexual abuse of a minor.

Of interest, the same statute also states that lethal force may not be employed if the defender believes that with complete safety for themselves and others the necessity of employing that lethal force can be avoided entirely by leaving the area.

It then immediately states further that there is no obligation to leave the area if a person is currently occupying any property that they own, or have legal rights to as a lessee or guest of the owner, at their place of business, protecting their child or in any place they have a legal right to be.

In short, so long as someone is not committing a crime or unlawfully occupying a place, there is effectively no obligation to retreat prior to the rightful employment of lethal force in defense of themselves or someone else.

Obviously, retreat is always preferable to the use of lethal force so long as it can be accomplished safely, but at the very least you will not be facing additional scrutiny from the state simply because you made the decision in the instant that lethal force was necessary to save your life for someone else’s from criminal predation.

Restrictions

Lethal force cannot be used to protect property from theft, with a specific example being the theft of an automobile as opposed to a carjacking.

A carjacking is the forcible commandeering of an occupied automobile or the removal of the occupants of the automobile, and does justify a lethal force response. An unoccupied automobile that is being stolen or one where the thief is attempting to steal it does not warrant a lethal force response.

Assessment

Alaska has entirely sensible stand-your-ground laws, and citizens have no duty to retreat from their homes, businesses or from any other place they have a legal right to be when presented with a threat that might kill them or gravely wound them.

Additionally, several forcible felonies including kidnapping, sexual assault, home invasion and sexual abuse of a child are also justifications for the use of lethal force in defense.

Relevant Alaska Use of Force 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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