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Self-Defense: When the Use of Force is Justified in Protecting Yourself and Others


When dealing with criminal charges in New Jersey, self-defense is one of the most common types of legal defenses. While you may have felt the need to take certain actions to protect yourself, others, or your property, you could still find yourself on the wrong side of the law. Charges such as assault and battery or weapons offenses are a serious matter in our state, and they could result in harsh penalties, including a jail sentence. In addition to a conviction and a criminal record that will follow you the rest of your life, you could also face civil liability for any injuries that result.

If you are in need of expert legal services for a self-defense case in New Jersey, contact the Law Office of Jordan B. Rickards! Our team will work tirelessly to bring you the best results in your case. The following outlines what you need to know about self-defense as a legal strategy and whether it applies in your particular situation.

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When Self-Defense Applies in Criminal Cases

In cases involving people charged with different types of physical assaults, one of the first claims they make is often that they acted in self-defense. While this may have been your motivation in a particular situation, it has to meet strict criteria to be accepted as a legal defense against criminal charges in a court of law. Under Section 2C:3-4 of the New Jersey Statutes, the use of force is justifiable in cases where it is immediately necessary to protect yourself against unlawful force being used by another person against you. Examples of this type of situation include:

  • When someone has pushed, shoved, punched, or taken some action against you and is threatening to continue the behavior
  • When someone has a weapon, such as a gun, bat, pipe, or other object, which they are threatening to use against you
  • When you are a victim of a crime, such as a mugging or sexual assault, and the use of force is required to keep the situation from escalating further

Situations in which the use of force is not justified include:

  • When you are trespassing on another’s property and they are attempting to get you to leave
  • When you have been forcibly removed from someone’s property or establishment and are attempting to reenter
  • When you are being placed under arrest or being detained by law enforcement officers

New Jersey ‘Stand Your Ground’ Laws

There is a classic scene in many movies when the hero uses force to defend his or her property against trespassers, vandals, thieves, or those who would otherwise cause harm. The actor may even go so far as to taunt the intruder, ala Clint Eastwood, to “make my day.” In real life, there is a fine line between taking needed actions to defend yourself and committing a criminal offense. Known by attorneys as the castle doctrine and often referred to as ‘stand your ground’ laws, they apply only in limited situations.

According to the National Council of State Legislators (NCLS), nearly half the states in the U.S. have stand your ground laws which do not require you to retreat if someone is trespassing on your property. However, New Jersey is not one of those states. The law requires that you must retreat from an attacker and may only use force if it is necessary, reasonable, and in proportion to an imminent attack. The same goes for defending another person who is being threatened. Automatically lashing out and taking actions against the offender could result in criminal charges against you and a civil lawsuit.

Let Our Middlesex County Criminal Attorney Help You Build a Strong Defense

At the Law Office of Jordan B. Rickards, we will thoroughly review all aspects of your case in order to build a strong, effective legal defense. To request a consultation, contact our Milltown criminal defense attorney today.

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