Self Defense

Use of Self Defense in New Jersey

In the State of New Jersey as of 2008, the criminal code has been revised as to N.J.S.A. 2C:3-4, 2C:3-6 and various other parts of Chapter 3 to allow for a quote on quote “Stand Your Ground” Law. Of course these types of statutes have come under fire in the media of late based upon the untimely death of Trayvon Martin and the George Zimmerman trial that followed, but they provide an affirmative defense in certain situations to people who are forced into difficult situations.

In session, the state legislature said, “All who reside in and all who visit this State have a right to expect to be unmolested and safe within their homes, residences, and vehicles. No person should be required, as a point of law, to surrender their personal safety or well being to the unlawful actions of a criminal, nor to needlessly retreat in the face of intrusion or attack. It is, therefore, altogether fitting and proper, and within the public interest, to ensure that law-abiding people are justified in protecting themselves, their families, and others from intruders and attackers, and that they may do so without fear of prosecution or civil action.”

Under these statutes, it shall now be lawful to use force upon another when the actor reasonably believes that such force is immediately necessary for the purpose of protecting himself against the use of unlawful force by such another person on the present occasion. There are however some limitations to when this use of force is permissible. For instance, in these cases, the use of force is not permissible to resist an arrest which the actor knows is being made by a member of law enforcement in the performance of his duties except that force may be employed to protect ones self if the force is unlawfully excessive. In addition, this exception does not apply to an occupier or possessor of property or by another person on his behalf, where the actor knows that the person using the force is doing so under a claim of right to protect the property, except that this limitation shall not apply if: (i) The actor is a public officer acting in the performance of his duties or a person lawfully assisting him therein or a person making or assisting in a lawful arrest; (ii) The actor has been unlawfully dispossessed of the property and is making a reentry or recaption justified by section 2C:3-6; or (iii) The actor reasonably believes that such force is necessary to protect himself against death or serious bodily injury.

Deadly force is rarely permissible notwithstanding the aforesaid. The use of deadly force is only justifiable if the actor reasonably believes that such force is necessary to protect himself against death or serious bodily injury. However, even then, deadly force is not lawful if: (1) the actor, with the purpose of causing death or serious bodily harm, provoked the use of force against himself in the same encounter; or (2) the actor knows that he can avoid the necessity of using such force with complete safety by retreating or by surrendering possession of a thing to a person asserting a claim of right thereto or by complying with a demand that he abstain from any action which he has no duty to take, except that the actor is not obliged to retreat from his dwelling, unless he was the initial aggressor. In addition, a public officer justified in using force in the performance of his duties or a person justified in using force in his assistance or a person justified in using force in making an arrest or preventing an escape is not obliged to desist from efforts to perform such a duty, effect such arrest or prevent such escape because of resistance or threatened resistance by or on behalf of the person against whom such action is directed.

Lastly, it was important to the legislators making this amendment that a section be added that states that the person using force may estimate the appropriate level of force. The key is that the person placed in this position should not have to fear recourse from someone unlawfully intruding in their home or upon their property or threatening them with force.

Pursuant to this, if you or someone you know has been charged with a crime that involves an element of stand your ground, meaning you were protecting yourself or your family from the unlawful invasion of another, then you should contact an attorney experienced at raising this affirmative defense. At The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall, we have over 100 years collective experience defending against criminal charges. We have the experience to help you. Please do not hesitate to contact one of our Monmouth County offices today for a free consultation with an experienced attorney about the particulars of your case.

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