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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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When Is Self Defense Justified in New Jersey?

Thanks to television and movies, there are some legal terms that are repeated so often people don’t even realize there are very specific guidelines for implementing them. For example, self-defense is absolutely a defense if you are charged with a crime in New Jersey. However, only an experienced criminal defense lawyer is in a position to determine if self defense strategy is in your best interests.

Do not make the mistake of speaking with police officers without an attorney present to protect your rights. Even if the cops say they believe you acted in self defense, wait for legal backup. One wrong comment can land you in significant trouble and even potentially make a self-defense legal strategy unusable.

So, get the facts. If you feel you are in a position where your life is being put at serious risk — severe injury or death — you are permitted to defend yourself. “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.” That’s New Jersey Statutes 2C-3-4(a).

So, if you are sitting in your car in a parking lot and someone approaches you with a gun, you have a right to defend yourself. Potentially, if you accelerated and hit the gunman — injuring or killing them — a self-defense strategy may be appropriate and accepted in court.

However, while that may sound rather straightforward, there are many other aspects of the law that must be followed to legitimize a self defense strategy. Here are four circumstances when a self-defense strategy may be applicable in New Jersey.

Bodily Protection: When you are in fear for your own life and defend yourself using force, this may be considered self defense.

Protection of Another Person: You are permitted to use force to defend another person whom you believe is under imminent danger from an attacker. However, you may have to prove that you were indeed in a “defensive” mode and not taking offensive action.

Protection of Your Home: You have a right to use force to defend your property, however you must ask the person to leave before you take defensive action. The only caveat is that if waiting for them to hear your request may exacerbate the danger.

John W. Tumelty offers free consultations — in person and via phone. He has three offices to serve you. Contact us today to reserve your time with an experienced criminal defense lawyer who will explain your rights regarding using a self-defense strategy to fight criminal charges in Atlantic City.

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