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Mr. Tumelty represented Helena Hendricks, who was charged with first degree murder in Atlantic County Superior Court. The defendant faced a number of additional charges, including armed robbery, conspiracy and possession of a handgun for an unlawful purpose. At the conclusion of a jury trial that lasted three weeks, the defendant was found "not guilty" of all charges.

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What Type of Self-Defense Is Legal in a Home Invasion?

New Jersey criminal defense lawyer

It may seem incredibly unfair that you could be arrested and charged with a crime merely for defending yourself against someone who invaded your home and tried to rob you, but this unfortunate outcome is a very real possibility in New Jersey. That’s because NJ self-defense law restricts you to using only the minimum degree of force needed to protect yourself against a home intruder or potential attacker.

While some states, such as Florida, have stand-your-ground laws that allow for a greater use of force in self-defense, New Jersey requires a person to retreat from a home intruder if at all possible. Moreover, when someone breaks into your home, steals your belongings, and then flees, you are not allowed to chase down the intruder outside the house and then attack them.

While the intruder is inside your house and poses a threat to you or your loved ones, you can defend yourself. However, the precise circumstances of the home invasion will dictate whether your use of force constitutes a valid form of self-defense under NJ law. For instance, was the other person armed with a deadly weapon? How large and physically imposing was the intruder? Were you able to get out of the house and away from the intruder without using force?

Use of Deadly Force in Self-Defense: New Jersey Law

NJ law does provide for a limited set of circumstances in which a person can use deadly force in self-defense, such as when the person’s life is in jeopardy and they cannot reasonably get away from their attacker. However, this does not mean that you can follow an intruder outside your house, chase after them, and fire gunshots in their direction.

Additionally, keep in mind that you can be charged with a weapons offense if you use a handgun or other deadly weapon to defend yourself. For example, law enforcement may determine that you did not legally own your gun – which can lead to very serious criminal charges for unlawful possession of a weapon.


If you face assault charges, weapons charges, or any other type of criminal charges for defending yourself against a home intruder, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. The aggressive criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of John W. Tumelty can help you fight your charges. Contact us now to schedule a free initial consultation.

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