The Alabama Criminal Code does not directly address the use of stun guns in the state. Nevertheless, a person using or threatening to use a stun gun on another person may be charged under one or more Alabama criminal statutes.
For information on stun guns generally, see Stun Gun Laws and Permit Requirements.
Under Alabama law, a stun gun is not considered a firearm. Rather, Alabama defines a firearm as a weapon that uses gunpowder to discharge a shot. While stun guns do not fall within the definition of a firearm, the use of a stun gun may still result in criminal liability.
(Ala. Code § 13A-8-1)
Alabama law defines a deadly weapon as a firearm or anything made or adapted for the purpose of inflicting death or serious physical injury. The statute identifies firearms, knives, bludgeons, and brass knuckles as examples of deadly weapons.
The definition of a deadly weapon includes not only items that can easily cause death (such as a firearm), but also items that are likely to cause death or great bodily harm because of the manner in which they are used. Alabama courts have found that items such as a cinder block and even a shoe can meet the definition of a deadly weapon, depending on how a defendant uses either of these on a victim. A stun gun might not be considered a deadly weapon where the defendant shocks the victim once to incapacitate, but a stun gun used to repeatedly shock a victim so that it causes the victim to suffer cardiac arrest may be classified as a deadly weapon.
Whether a stun gun falls within the deadly weapon definition is important because, like other states, Alabama criminal statutes consider the use of a deadly weapon as an aggravating factor that allows a judge to impose a more severe sentence for a defendant convicted of a violent crime. For example, convictions for Class A felonies carry a minimum 10-year prison sentence. Class A felonies committed with deadly weapons carry a minimum sentence of 20 years in prison.
(Ala. Code § § 13A-1-2, 13A-5-6; Harris v. State, 873 So.2d 1171 (Ala. Crim. App. 2003))
The use of a deadly weapon also distinguishes classes of certain criminal offenses. A person commits assault in the first degree by intentionally causing serious injury to another a person through the use of a deadly weapon or a dangerous instrument. A person intentionally causing serious physical injury commits assault in the second degree, as does a person who intentionally commits non-serious physical injury through use of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument.
(Ala. Code § § 13A-6-20, 13A-6-21)
Alabama law defines a dangerous instrument as one that, under the circumstances in which it is used (or attempted to be used, or threatened to be used), is highly capable of causing death or serious physical injury. Even if a person uses a stun gun in a manner so that it does not meet the definition of either a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument, the person may still be charged with second- or third-degree assault if that person causes the victim physical injury.
(Ala. Code § 13A-1-2)
Just as a person who shoots another person with a firearm might claim self-defense, so may a person who is accused of a crime based on the use of a stun gun on another person. This includes a person who attempts to use or threatens to use a stun gun on another. For example, a defendant may be charged with first-degree assault where the defendant’s use of a stun gun causes another person serious physical injury, such as a head injury resulting from striking the ground upon being stunned. Although the facts of this scenario meet the definition of first-degree assault, the defendant might claim that using the stun gun on the individual was justified because the stunned individual was charging at the defendant with a knife -- that is, the defendant shot the other person with the stun gun onlyin order to defend against the knife attack.
If you are charged with a crime based on the use of a stun gun in Alabama, you should speak with an attorney as soon as possible. Conviction of a crime based on the use of a stun gun can result in a lengthy prison sentence. An experienced attorney can review your case and discuss possible defenses you have to the charge. An attorney is essential to protecting your rights and ensuring the most favorable outcome to your case.