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What is Alaska’s self-defense law?

It is not uncommon to hear people in Anchorage claim (in response to assault charges) that they only acted in self-defense. Such claims are often met with skepticism. However, those people who express such doubt at such assertions may themselves admit that they understand there may be situations where one feels compelled to defend themselves (or their loved ones).

The question then becomes how far the law permits one to use defensive action. Answering that question requires that one understand the distinction between two similar (yet also different) legal principles: “Stand Your Ground” laws and “the Castle Doctrine.”

Differentiating “Stand Your Ground” from “the Castle Doctrine”

“Stand Your Ground” laws essentially remove the duty to retreat from anyone in any situation in which they feel threatened. “The Castle Doctrine” limits that freedom to act to threats posed only in those places where they are legally entitled to be (such as one’s residence, place of business, etc.).

A review of Alaska’s self-defense statutes shows that the state subscribes to the former philosophy. Indeed, Section 11.81.330 of Alaska’s Criminal Law states that one may react with non-lethal force in any scenario where they believe only such force might deter another from causing them harm.

Understanding the limitations to Alaska’s self-defense law

The law goes on to say that certain situations even merit the use of deadly force if the actor believes it necessary to avoid any of the following:

  • Death
  • Serious physical injury
  • Kidnapping
  • Sexual assault in the first or second degree
  • Sexual abuse of a minor
  • Robbery

However, deadly force is not warranted if there is any possibility one can safely avoid it. The exception would be any unlawful incursions into one’s home, a property one owns or leases, or anywhere one has the expressed or implied permission of the owner to be.