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Crime & Courts

Alaska’s self defense laws, explained

  • Author: Laurel Andrews
  • Updated: July 27, 2018
  • Published July 27, 2018

Do you have questions about Alaska’s laws on self defense? Here’s a breakdown of what you can and can’t do, legally, to protect yourself.

NOTE: This article discusses Alaska law but in no way constitutes legal advice. Experts say each case depends heavily on the facts at hand. Consult an attorney for questions about a specific case.

Alaska's laws on self defense can be found in Title 11 of Alaska Statutes, under General Provisions, Chapter 81.

James Fayette, Senior Assistant District Attorney in Anchorage, spoke generally about what the laws say you can and can't do in order to defend yourself.

First, the use of non-deadly force: A person may use non-deadly force – like spraying someone with pepper spray or using a taser – when the victim "reasonably believes" it is needed for self defense, Alaska's statutes say.

But the person using non-deadly force can't claim self defense if they were the initial aggressor, or provoked someone with "intent to cause physical injury," or if the two people were in a mutually agreed-upon fight.

If a situation does not meet the standard for legal use of non-deadly force, then it automatically fails the standard for use of deadly force.

Under Alaska's law, you can use deadly force on someone – like using a firearm or knife — when you "reasonably believe" that it's necessary to defend against death, serious physical injury, kidnapping, robbery and sexual abuse in the first and second degree.

You can also use deadly force to defend someone else if you "reasonably believe" they are in danger of one of these situations.

Let's talk for a second about what "reasonably believe" means:  Not only does the victim need to believe that they are in danger, but if another, reasonable person were placed in that same situation, they would need to believe they were in danger, as well.

This comes into play because, in many instances, someone is under the influence of drugs or alcohol when they use force against others.

So, part of the test is: "Would a sober person have reached the same conclusion?" Fayette said.

If you do reasonably believe you're in danger, here's what the laws say:

If someone is breaking into your home when you are there, you are legally allowed to use deadly force to defend yourself. That's the same whether you own your home or rent it, or even if you are a guest staying in someone else's home.

But you can't use deadly force solely to defend your property. That means you can't rig up a booby-trapped gun on a remote property to fire at someone trying to burglarize your unoccupied building, like a storage shed.

Each case is different. Specific details of a situation – factors such as: Who started it? Were there alternatives to using force? — can shift criminal liabilities.

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