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What Do NJ Courts Consider Self Defense?

What is Permissible Self Defense in NJ?

New Jersey law permits the use of self defense in certain circumstances, although there are some limitations.  Most commonly, a defendant will raise the defense of self defense when he responded to the threat of another by fighting back to protect himself from personal injury.  Although not personal protection, the law also provides a defense for the protection of another person in similar circumstances as self defense.  Lastly, an individual may be permitted to use force in defending personal property in limited instances.  If properly argued by a New Jersey criminal lawyer, a criminal defendant who committed a crime or disorderly persons offense may avoid conviction if the criminal act was done in self defense as permitted under NJ law.  Each of the New Jersey self defense laws are summarized below.

Self Defense as Self Protection

Self Defense NJ Criminal Lawyer

A person is allowed to use force in self protection when the actor reasonably believes that the force used is immediately necessary to protect himself against unlawful force by another person.  When evaluating the reasonableness of the defendant's use of force, the judge will consider factors such as the age and size of the people involved, threats made between them and any reputation for violence of the other party.  The use of force in self defense is subject to a few limitations outlined in N.J.S.A. 2C:3-4.  For example, the individual may not use such force to resist arrest by a police officer or to resist force used by a property owner in protection of his or her property.
Deadly force may only be used in self defense if it is reasonably believed that such deadly force is necessary to protect the actor from death or serious bodily harm.  Under New Jersey law, “serious bodily harm” is defined as injury that creates a substantial risk of death, serious permanent disfigurement or a protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.

Defense of Another Person

Under N.J.S.A. 2C:3-5, the standard for the use of force for the protection of another person is based on the similar standard applied in the use of self defense discussed above.  A person's actions are justified in protecting a third person when the actor would be justified in using the same force to protect himself against the injury being threatened to the protected person.  The NJ court will analyze the facts of a particular case in which one defends another using an objective reasonable person approach.  This means that the threat of injury to the third person perceived by the defendant must have been reasonable to the average person in the same situation.

Defense of the Home

New Jersey residents are permitted to use force against a trespasser in the defense of their personal property according to NJ statute N.J.S.A. 2C:3-6.  The homeowner or lawful possessor of such property must reasonably believe that the force is necessary to prevent or terminate a criminal trespass in order to use such force.  As with other laws on the use of force, the right to defend one's property is subject to a few distinct limitations.  As a result, it is important that you discuss your case with a criminal defense lawyer to establish whether you had a valid defense in your particular situation.

Legal Advise on Self Defense

The law on self defense or the defense of another person is confusing for the average person to understand.  Sometimes, an individual mistakenly believes they were entitled to use more force than necessary to protect themselves or their property.  On the other hand, one may easily be unaware that they had the right to act in the forceful way which resulted in a charge by law enforcement.  In either case, it is important to speak with a criminal attorney if you think that you may be entitled to raise the defense of self defense to fight your recent criminal charge in New Jersey.  The law firm of Villani & DeLuca has criminal law attorneys experienced in self defense that can help.  Call them today!

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