People toss that saying around all too often, not really understanding what it means to enter a plea of self defense when you are charged with a crime. In New Jersey, however, self defense law (NJSA 2C-3-4(a)) states that if you are in a situation where you fear for your life or the life of someone else, you are entitled to protect yourself by taking reasonable actions to defend yourself against the attack.
In other words, “the use of force upon or toward another person is justifiable when the actor reasonably believes that such force is immediately necessary for the purpose of protecting himself against the unlawful force by such other person on the present occasion.” Therefore, if you are woken up in the middle of the night with a gun pointed at you, for example, you have every right to believe you are in imminent danger and can defend yourself. Further, if your actions hurt or kill the attacker, you can claim self defense in an effort to not be forced to face the serious penalties associated with homicide or assault charges.
Generally speaking, there are three situations when self defense may be warranted in New Jersey:
Protecting Yourself: If you believe you are in danger of being seriously injured by another person, you can use force to protect your own body.
Protecting Others: If you know that someone else is in danger of being attacked and injured, you can also use force to defend them. However, you will need to prove that you were taking defensive actions and not defensive actions to qualify under NJ’s self defense statute.
Protecting Your Home: Governed by NJSA 2C:3-6, the state’s self defense law regarding protecting property is complex. You generally have the right to defend your property using force but you must request that the attacker leave the premises before taking action. If the threat is imminent and requesting the attacker vacate the premises puts you or someone else in further danger, you would not have to request they leave before taking defensive action.
It’s very important to contact an aggressive criminal defense lawyer about your circumstances immediately. This is because self defense laws are complex and often difficult to fully understand. Choose a lawyer who will answer your questions, protect your interests and fight for your freedom.
John W. Tumelty is a criminal defense lawyer who has been protecting the rights of clients in Atlantic City and surrounding South Jersey towns for over 30 years. He will get a full understanding of what happened and explain your rights.