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Q. In Juneau, what are the laws regarding self defense


Dear Juneau Resident,

The question comes up pretty regularly and there really isn't a 'nutshell' answer available. Anything involving the use of force gets pretty complicated.

The Alaska statutes you want to read are 11.81.330 (Justification: Use of nondeadly force in defense of self) and 11.81.335 (Justification: Use of deadly force in defense of self). Both statutes are attached at the end of this answer. Read carefully since there are multiple exceptions and a duty to retreat in some circumstances.

Sometimes use of force decisions happen in circumstances that are less than clear cut as to what each person was doing and each person's intent. Controversial uses of force may end up getting settled by the courts interpreting the law.

The laws cited are attached to this answer but don't forget case law. Case law on self defense and other uses of force is a huge body of work, too big to include here. Case law addresses specific situations the courts have already examined. Those court decisions will provide guidance to the courts in the future when statutes are applied to real life. Specific situations may also end up having characteristics that involve state statutes in addition to the two cited. If robbery is the crime leading to the self-defense, the elements of robbery (Alaska Statute 11.41.500-510) may be discussed as the court considers the legitimacy of the self-defense.

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. 11.81.330. Justification: Use of nondeadly force in defense of self.

(a) A person is justified in using nondeadly force upon another when and to the extent the person reasonably believes it is necessary for self-defense against what the person reasonably believes to be the use of unlawful force by the other person, unless

(1) the person used the force in mutual combat not authorized by law;

(2) the person claiming self-defense provoked the other's conduct with intent to cause physical injury to the other;

(3) the person claiming self-defense was the initial aggressor; or

(4) the force used was the result of using a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument the person claiming self-defense possessed while

(A) acting alone or with others to further a felony criminal objective of the person or one or more other persons;

(B) a participant in a felony transaction or purported transaction or in immediate flight from a felony transaction or purported transaction in violation of AS 11.71; or

(C) acting alone or with others in revenge for, retaliation for, or response to actual or perceived conduct by a rival or perceived rival, or a member or perceived member of a rival group, if the person using deadly force, or the group on whose behalf the person is acting, has a history or reputation for violence among civilians.

(b) A person who is not justified in using force in self-defense in the circumstances listed in (a)(1) - (3) of this section is justified in using force in self-defense if that person has withdrawn from the encounter and effectively communicated the withdrawal to the other person, but the other person persists in continuing the incident by the use of unlawful force.

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; or

(4) protecting a child or a member of the person's household.

Sec. 11.81.340. Justification: Use of force in defense of a third person.

A person is justified in using force upon another when and to the extent the person reasonably believes it is necessary to defend a third person when, under the circumstances as the person claiming defense of another reasonably believes them to be, the third person would be justified under AS 11.81.330 or 11.81.335 in using that degree of force for self-defense.

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, Sec. 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 28.40.100 , an aircraft, or a watercraft.



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