Most people who must engage in a violent act of self-defense would never have expected to do so. Their actions are the outcome of a serious, dangerous situation that left them afraid for their lives or the safety of other people.
Although using physical force against another person will usually lead to assault or homicide charges under New Jersey law, people can sometimes defend against such allegations by claiming that they acted in self-defense.
Self-defense claims are often subject to intense scrutiny by law enforcement and the courts. Many people don’t fully understand the law that they want to invoke in their own defense. Understanding the rules that govern self-defense claims in New Jersey can help you determine if pursuing such a defense is a viable strategy.
Does New Jersey impose a duty to retreat before acting?
In some states, individuals who feel personally threatened or who witness a criminal act against another person can act in self-defense without taking any other actions first. Stand-your-ground laws allow someone to initiate physical contact or even use lethal force without trying to leave the situation first. New Jersey does not have such a law on the books.
Instead, there is a rule requiring that an individual facing violence or criminal behavior would first attempt to leave the dangerous situation. You have an obligation or duty to retreat before resorting to violence. Only in scenarios where you cannot retreat or where the other party pursues you can you then engage in an act of self-defense without risking criminal charges under New Jersey law.
There may be other defense strategies available
Not everyone accused of a violent offense can claim self-defense in criminal court. If your circumstances do not meet the strict criteria set by New Jersey state law, then a different defense strategy may be necessary.
The situation that led to your charges and your prior criminal record, as well as the background of the other party involved in the altercation, could influence the right strategy for your case. Knowing all of your options when you face violent criminal charges in New Jersey will possibly increase your chances of a successful defense.