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New Jersey Self-Defense Laws


If you have been accused of violent crime such as assault or murder and you were protecting yourself or another person from unlawful use of force or imminent danger, you may claim self-defense to avoid being convicted. Every person has a right to protect themselves from harm, serious bodily injury, or death.

The following are three elements a case must have for the defendant to successfully exercise self-defense in New Jersey:

  • The force used was immediately necessary to protect yourself or someone else
  • The force used against you was unlawful
  • The amount of force used was proportional to the attack (i.e. you used deadly force because you were in danger of serious bodily injury or death)

However, a person has a duty to retreat first before exercising self-defense. If escaping the confrontation isn’t possible, he/she has the right to defend himself/herself.

To determine if the use of force is reasonable, a jury and judge must consider all the circumstances of the case. For instance, they will evaluate each parties’ age, size, health, and criminal history.

When it comes to defending a home, a homeowner must believe the force is necessary to prevent a crime being committed on the property. Yet, the homeowner must ask the attacker to stop—unless the request can expose the homeowner and place him/her in danger. If a person commits a robbery, burglary, arson, or any crime involving theft or destruction of property, the use of deadly force is justifiable.

On the other hand, the use of force in self-defense isn’t justified in the following situations:

  • When resisting arrest—unless a police officer uses unlawful force
  • When resisting force by a homeowner or occupant, who is lawfully using self-defense to protect his/her property
  • When the individual who claims self-defense originally initiated the attack
  • When the individual has the chance to retreat—unless he/she is at home

If you have been charged with a violent crime in Bergen County, contact the Law Offices of Joseph R. Donahue, LLC today at (201) 574-7919 and schedule a free case evaluation.

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