Self defense is an important aspect of New Jersey law. Self defense arises when the defendant believes that force is immediately necessary to protect himself from unlawful force. However, there are some requirements which must be met in order for the use of force to be justified as self defense.
New Jersey law requires that the defendant has a duty to retreat first. If this is not possible, than the defendant must have reasonable belief about three subjects in order to constitute self defense:
- The force used must be immediately necessary
- The force against the defendant must be unlawful
- The amount of force used must be necessary
This means that the defendant must be threatened with immediate, illegal violence or other unlawful action, and that the action required the amount of force with which the defendant responded. A defense of Self Defense is disregarded if any of these conditions are not met. For example, if someone is threatening to assault you, you have the right to fight back. However, if the threat involves the use of fists, you do not have the right to pull out and use a knife on your attacker. The use of a knife is an excessive amount of force not covered under self defense. Deadly force is only justifiable if the defendant reasonable believed it was necessary to protect himself from death or serious bodily injury.
In order to determine if the force used under self defense was unreasonable, the judge and jury must consider facts regarding the circumstances surrounding the incident. For example, the look at the size, age, and physical condition of both individuals in assessing whether self defense was necessary. Under normal circumstances, a physically fit man cannot claim self defense against a child or, in the case of a domestic violence disturbance, a physically fit man cannot declare self defense against his smaller wife/partner unless a weapon is involved. The facts looked at by a judge and jury also involve the attackers reputation and whether it was a violent one, or previous convictions for violent crimes.
These conditions can also be applied in the protection of a third party. If the defendant has reason to belief force is necessary to protect another from an aggressor, he has the right to use the necessary force required to repel the aggressor. Unlike self defense, however, there is no duty to retreat and if the defendant is mistaken about his belief that the victim needed his help, he can still claim this defense if the circumstances make the mistake reasonable.
A person also has the right to use force against another to defend his home. A person must believe the force is necessary to prevent the crime which the aggressor is committing on his property, and prior to using the force the defendant must request that the aggressor stop his behavior unless the request endangers the defendant or the property in question. Deadly force is justifiable to combat a person committing arson, burglary, robbery, or any crime involving the theft or destruction of property if either of two requirements are met:
- the defendant reasonably believes that the person against whom it is employed is using or threatening to use deadly force in the defendant’s presence. b) the defendant believes he can stop the crime being committed with deadly force but anything less will expose himself or another to danger.
The same standards apply to personal property, such as a car or valuables, but the use of deadly force is never justified under these circumstances.
If you have any questions regarding this defense please contact LS&P Lawyers. We are available 24/7 for consultation and have an experienced team of criminal lawyers willing to meet your legal needs.