State of Alabama: Criminal Code
Pattern Jury Instructions – Criminal (Third Edition, 1994)
(Note: AL is in a multi-year effort to revise and update it’s jury instructions. As of this posting the self-defense jury instructions–last updated more than 20 years ago–have not yet been subject to revision and update. It is anticipated, however, that they will be revised and updated in the near future.)
Ala. Code § 13A-3-23. SELF-DEFENSE (Physical Force)
One of the issues in this case is self defense.
A person is justified in using physical force upon another person in order to defend himself (or a third person) from what he reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of unlawful physical force by that other person, and he may use a degree of force which he reasonably believes to be necessary for the purpose.
For the defendant’s use of physical force against another person to be justified, the force must have been used under the following circumstances:
(1) the defendant must have acted in order to defend himself or a third person from what he reasonably believed to be the use or imminent use of unlawful physical force; and
(2) the defendant must have used no more force than he reasonably believed to be necessary for the purpose of defense.
A reasonable belief is a belief formed in reliance upon reasonable appearances. It is a belief not formed recklessly or negligently. The test of reasonableness is not whether the defendant was correct in his belief but whether the belief was reasonable under the circumstances existing at the time.
The defendant is not justified in the use of physical force and cannot prevail on the issue of self defense if
(1) with intent to cause physical injury or death to another, the defendant provoked the use of unlawful physical force by such other person;
(or) (2) the defendant was the initial aggressor, except that his use of physical force upon another person under the circumstances is justifiable if he withdraws from the encounter and effectively communicates to the other person his intent to do so, but the other person continues or threatens the use of unlawful physical force;
(or) (3) the physical force involved was the product of a combat by agreement not specifically authorized by law.
The defendant does not have the burden of proving that he acted in self defense. To the contrary, once self-defense becomes an issue, the State has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not act in self defense.
[IMPORTANT: In addition to this jury instruction imposing no legal duty to retreat before using merely non-deadly force in self-defense, the legal duty to retreat before using even deadly force was eliminated in 2009 by statutory amendment. § 13A-3-23 now includes the following language: “(b) A person who is justified under subsection (a) in using physical force, including deadly physical force, and who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and is in any place where he or she has the right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground.”]