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Self-Defense Laws in New Jersey

According to Section 2C-3-4(a) of the New Jersey statutes, “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.” But what does this mean? What “counts” as self-defense in New Jersey?

New Jersey law gives you the right to use force to protect yourself if you believe that force is necessary to protect you from imminent death or serious bodily harm.

However, the law also requires that your beliefs in the situation be “reasonable”:

·       The amount of force used must be reasonable. How much force is “necessary” to stop the attack? Using an excessive amount of force will likely be considered unreasonable.

·       The belief that an immediate response is needed must be reasonable.  The closer the self-defense action is to the original attack, the more likely it is to be considered an “immediate” need.

·       The belief that the attacker’s act is unlawful must also be reasonable.  The initial attack must be (or reasonably appear to be) unlawful in order for a response of force to be considered self-defense.

Self-defense is one type of “affirmative defense.” In a criminal case, the prosecutor must prove every element of the initial charge beyond a reasonable doubt. However, it is the responsibility of the defendant to prove every element of an affirmative defense beyond a reasonable doubt. In other words, if you raise the issue of self-defense in your criminal case, you (and your attorney) are responsible for proving that your beliefs and the amount of force used were reasonable.  Working with an experienced lawyer offers your best chance for proving self-defense in court.

The New Jersey criminal defense lawyers at Rudnick, Addonizio, Pappa & Casazza can help you prove that any actions you took were in self-defense, while we also fight to protect your legal rights and secure the best possible outcome in your case. Contact us today to learn more.

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