Making sure

a single moment

doesn't define your future!


How Does Alabama’s Criminal Defense Process Differ from Other States?

Latest News

What is Rule 404?

Rule 404 is a federal law that involves whether or not you can admit evidence indicating the defendant’s prior crimes or involvements that may establish a pattern for the charges they are facing now. 

Referred to as “character evidence,” the rule has been around for multiple decades and only recently was amended again in Alabama, changing how the defense and prosecution must provide past criminal history to defend their client or establish fault.

In civil cases, character evidence may not be permitted in some situations, such as proving the defendant’s character. Still, it may be permissible when it applies to motive, intent, or preparation for the current crime in criminal matters.

Imminent Harm and Self Defense

A common defense to criminal charges is self-defense. This defense requires the defendant to be in fear of imminent harm. Though the threat can be verbal or physical, words are not always enough to form a valid self-defense case.

Additionally, once the threat of imminent harm has ceased, the defendant can no longer use self-defense as a reason to carry out criminal behavior. Furthermore, the fear of imminent danger must be reasonable to others. For instance, one can’t state that they had a fear of imminent harm if another person in the same situation wouldn’t reasonably feel threatened.

What is the Castle Doctrine?

According to Alabama Code 1975 13A-3-23, “a person may use deadly physical force and is legally presumed to be justified in using deadly physical force in self-defense or in the defense of another person pursuant to section 5 if the person reasonably believes that another person is…” using or about to use unlawful deadly physical force, committing or about to commit kidnapping in any degree… 

Alabama is one of the few states still allowing the Castle Doctrine, sometimes called the Stand Your Ground defense. Defendants are permitted to use potentially lethal force without needing to attempt to remove themselves from the situation first.

This rule applies to your home, business property, or vehicle. The rule does not apply if law enforcement is trying to enter your home, business, or car while operating in an official capacity.

Suppose the defendant reasonably believes that someone is unlawfully or forcibly attempting to enter their home, business, or car or has already entered. In that case, they may have a legal right to respond with legal force.

Similarly, suppose someone reasonably believes that another person is attempting to remove someone from their home, business property, or car against their will. In that case, they may be legally allowed to use lethal force to stop the removal.

For the self-defense to be appropriate, you must not be the instigator, must have acted with reasonable force, and be at a place that you are legally permitted to be. For example, if the threat is exposed where you are not legally supposed to be, you may not be allowed to use lethal force to protect yourself.

It’s important to note that the force must be proportionate to be acceptable. If someone is making verbal threats without viable means to inflict harm, excessive force to protect yourself while in your home may not result in viable self-defense.

Defense of Others in Alabama

Alabama law provides defendants the opportunity to justify their actions if they reasonably believed another was in imminent harm and they acted to protect them. This defense requires the admittance of an illegal activity but with the idea that the defendant was justified in acting as such to protect another.

A reasonable level of force also applies to this defense strategy. For example, if someone witnesses another get slapped and chooses to use lethal force against them, their defense isn’t likely plausible. However, suppose someone sees another being violently threatened while the perpetrator has apparent means to carry out that threat or has a deadly weapon on their person. In that case, they may be able to use this means of defense to avoid or lessen the charges against them.

Furthermore, the burden of proof lies on the defendant, so working with a legal representative for criminal defense in Birmingham is a great way to ensure that you have a valid defense and a chance at getting your charges lessened or dropped.

Assault of Another

Defense of others doesn’t only apply to lethal force. If someone witnesses another in immediate danger by assaulting them, they have a legal right to react with proportionate force and avoid assault charges in some cases.

As with lethal force, the defendant must prove that they had a reasonable right to feel the other person was in imminent danger, that they acted proportionately with the level of response to the person they were defending against, and that once the threat ceased, their actions stopped.

Navigating the Criminal Defense System Can Be Frustrating

With so many caveats to the criminal defense system, it can be challenging for anyone without years of experience to navigate. Laws evolve over time, making it even more agonizing to understand what is permitted or prohibited in terms of defense.

Having been in law practice since 2009, our firm offers vast knowledge and experience of Alabama’s criminal charges and your options. We firmly stand by our clients and tirelessly advocate for them by providing clear evidence that they acted within the law and had a reasonable belief in their actions.

Don’t hesitate to work with us to navigate the criminal charges you may face. Call our office at (205) 881-5641 to schedule your consultation and learn more about your options.

Related Articles