Violence is never the best answer; however, there are situations where individuals will be left with no choice but to use violence to protect themself. In Alabama, one is immune from criminal prosecution if the individual is deemed to have used self-defense.
For example, let’s assume that you were attacked in a mall parking lot and were carrying a gun. After being attacked, you shot and killed the attacker. The self-defense statute would shield you from being prosecuted on a murder, manslaughter, or homicide charge.
In Malone v. State of Alabama, a criminal appeal that arose out of Limestone County, Alabama, the defendant, Jeremy Malone (“Malone”), was involved in a fight in September, 2014. The fight occurred at the home of Jackie Townsend (“Townsend”), who was the maternal grandmother of Malone’s son, Gavon.
Malone went to Townsend’s house to visit Gavon. After arriving at the house, Malone was involved in an altercation with mother’s boyfriend (“Nelson”). Specifically, Malone entered the house uninvited, and Nelson ordered Malone to leave. When Nelson realized that Malone had entered the house, Nelson grabbed Malone by the throat and pushed Malone out of the house. Nelson and Malone both fell off the front porch, Malone then started to walk away. Nelson responded by grabbing Malone, and at that time Malone stabbed Nelson.
Malone was indicted for second-degree assault. Malone filed a motion to dismiss the indictment alleging that he was immune from prosecution because was acting in self-defense, citing § 13A-3-23, Alabama Code 1975 (“the self-defense statute).
The circuit denied that motion on the basis that it did not hold the authority to decide the question of immunity at a pretrial hearing. Malone pleaded guilty to second-degree assault but reserved the issue of whether he was entitled to a pretrial determination of immunity. Malone appealed, reiterating his argument about being entitled to a pretrial determination of immunity under the Alabama self- defense statute.
The Court of Criminal Appeals addressed whether the immunity provision of section self-defense statute is applicable to Malone’s defense. To reiterate, Malone’s defense is that the use of a deadly force was justified under the self-defense statute; therefore, he should be entitled to immunity from criminal prosecution. However, Malone was not furthering the “stand-your-ground” defense.
The State furthers that one must prove the “stand-your-ground” defense in order to be provided immunity from criminal prosecution. To explain further, the “stand-your-ground” defense that allows a person to use deadly force and also imposes no duty to retreat; however, one must be lawfully present to use this defense which was an issue for the case at hand.
The Court of Criminal Appeals disagreed with the States argument. Here, the Court of Criminal Appeals found the immunity provision in section applies to any defense that is justified under the self-defense statute, not just the “stand-your-ground defense.”
The Court of Criminal Appeals then addressed whether Malone was entitled to a pretrial hearing on his self-defense immunity claim. In Harrison, which was decided after Malone appealed and before briefing of this case was completed, the Court of Criminal Appeals held that a defendant asserting immunity based on any self-defense claim is entitled to a pretrial hearing. Harrison v. State, _ So. 3d _ (Ala. Crim. App. 2015). Thus, the Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that Malone was entitled to a pretrial hearing, regardless if he claimed the “stand-your-ground-defense” or not, and reversed the trial courts judgment.
If you have been charged with assault or murder and believe you were asserting self-defense, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced criminal lawyer.