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When a case of self-defense leads to attempted homicide charges

On Behalf of | Oct 12, 2023 | Criminal Defense

Attempted homicide or attempted murder as defined in the New Jersey state criminal code can lead to very serious consequences. The penalties could include between five and 15 years in prison for second-degree charges or life in prison for first-degree charges. Premeditation or planning is often the difference between these two categories of attempted murder.

Yet, sometimes, a situation that seems like an intentional act of interpersonal violence to the state is actually a response to the violence perpetrated by someone else. As a result, raising a claim of self-defense might be a viable option for people in a handful of circumstances accused of attempted murder in New Jersey.

What does the state consider self-defense?

The most obvious case in which someone can claim that they acted in self-defense is a scenario where one party has directly threatened or already harmed another. Someone responding to what they perceive to be a credible threat of immediate bodily harm can use the degree of force they deem necessary to extricate themselves from the situation. As long as another reasonable person would also feel that their life might be in danger, and someone may have legal justification to act in self-defense.

New Jersey actually has a relatively expansive definition of self-defense. People have the right to use physical force to defend their homes and other personal property. A home invasion scenario would often warrant the use of physical force and possibly the use of a legal weapon to protect oneself and one’s domicile from the criminal intentions of another.

Finally, New Jersey does recognize that people can act in defense of others. Someone does not need to have a pre-existing relationship with another party to decide to intervene on their behalf during what seems like a criminal incident. Self-defense claims may not be possible in situations where someone instigated the conflict or where they trespassed or otherwise violated the law prior to the matter becoming a physical altercation.

Those hoping to respond to attempted murder charges with an assertion that they acted in self-defense will typically need to look over the state’s evidence very carefully with the assistance of an attorney to start developing their defense strategy. Given the stakes of the situation at hand, this effort should be made right away.