NJ Criminal Lawyer
Any person has the right to defend himself or herself from harm. Under New Jersey law, a person who has harmed another when acting in self-defense may avoid punishment that might otherwise be applied. A person may also claim self-defense after using force to protect others from attack.
New Jersey law specifically addresses actions that constitute self-defense, but the concept is quite complicated. The law discourages the use of force, so prosecutors are often reluctant to accept a self-defense plea without a persuasive legal argument and evidence to justify it.
If you have been charged with a violent crime after acting in self-defense to protect yourself or someone else, you need to obtain an experienced New Jersey criminal defense lawyer right away. Regardless of the circumstances, it is extremely unlikely for a defendant to prevail on a self-defense plea on their own. The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall can offer you strategic representation that may help you avoid prison time and steep fines that will be levied if you are found guilty of a self-defense assault charge or self-defense murder charge.
Engaging an attorney from the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall ensures that your defense is supported by:
- More than 200 years of combined legal experience defending individuals accused of violent crimes and other criminal charges in counties across New Jersey
- 10 defense attorneys focused solely on defending people against criminal charges
- Experience gained through years as New Jersey prosecutors and public defenders before becoming defense attorneys, including assignments leading a local trial division and units dedicated to major crimes, domestic violence, guns and special operations
- Lawyers certified as criminal trial attorneys, putting them among fewer than 2% of New Jersey lawyers
- A litigation record that includes countless cases ending in charges against our clients being dropped
- A large law firm of specifically recruited attorneys and legal staff with the resources and dedication to see your case through to the best possible outcome for you.
If you have been charged with a violent crime in New Jersey, your future is at risk. But if the circumstances were such that your actions constituted self-defense, you should not be punished. Let us help you develop your most persuasive self-defense case. Schedule a free consultation with our respected New Jersey criminal defense attorneys today to learn how we can help you craft a viable legal defense.
What is Considered Self-Defense in New Jersey?
Self-defense is the legal right to protect oneself from suffering bodily harm at the hands of an individual acting unlawfully to inflict injury. It allows a person to use reasonable force to protect themself or others, such as members of their family, from an attack if they have reason to believe one or more of them are in danger. In some circumstances, the right to counter aggression with violence is extended to protecting real or personal property.
In New Jersey, NJ Rev Stat § 2C:3-4 (2013) requires that to claim self-defense or use of force for justifiable self-protection, a defendant must reasonably believe:
- The aggressor was directing unlawful force or violence against the defendant
- Use of force to counter the violent act was immediately necessary
- The amount of force the defendant used was necessary
For instance, many people believe correctly that if an intruder enters your home, you have the right to react with force. By law, you would need to believe that the intruder would inflict personal injury upon you or others in your home, or that the intruder had ignored your orders to leave, surrender or disarm. In practice, you are expected to order an intruder to stop before using force against them, unless doing so would endanger you or others.
Is Self-Defense Legal in NJ?
Yes, defending yourself is legal in certain circumstances.
In most cases, deadly force is justifiable only if the defendant believed it to be necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury. The law requires the person being attacked to retreat if possible or surrender property to avoid countering an attack with deadly force, except that this does not require a person to flee or surrender their home.
You may not claim self-defense if you provoked an attack so that you could respond with deadly force.
You may not escalate the violent nature of a confrontation and then claim self-defense. For example, you may not use a knife in a fistfight and claim self-defense.
A self-defense claim is also unavailable for resisting a lawful arrest by police or other law enforcement officers, unless the officer employs unlawful force.
Types of Self-Defense Claims in New Jersey
New Jersey law makes a self-defense plea available for a defendant:
- Protecting himself or herself. The defense is that a use of force was immediately necessary to repel an unlawful violent attack and that the amount of force used was appropriate. A prosecutor or judge would consider the nature of the attack, the relative ages and sizes of the individuals involved, and whether either individual had a previous record of violence.
- Protecting another person. The defense is that the defendant had a reasonable belief that the third person was subject to harm, that a use of force was immediately necessary to repel the attack and that the amount of force used was appropriate. New Jersey’s law for use of force for protection of persons falls under a separate statute, NJ Rev Stat § 2C:3-5 (2013). A prosecutor or judge in this case would consider whether the defendant’s belief that they were offering necessary protection was reasonable. Even if incorrect, a reasonable belief is a valid defense.
- Protecting property. The legal defense that you used force to prevent criminal trespass upon your home or personal property is allowed under NJ Rev Stat § 2C:3-6 (2013). The law requires that you first tell a trespasser to stop unless such a request would be useless, could prove dangerous to you or someone else or would allow time for the intruder to do substantial harm to the property you are trying to protect. The defendant’s reasonable belief that they needed to use force, even deadly force, to protect their home against an intrusion is presumed to exist, and to rebut the presumption, a prosecutor must provide proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
Can You Get Charged for Self-Defense in NJ?
In most cases, it is up to a district attorney’s office to decide whether a defendant’s belief in pending danger was reasonable and therefore their act to harm another person is legally justifiable as self-defense.
As your attorneys, we would compile evidence, including statements from you and any witnesses, as well as your attacker’s record, if one existed, to demonstrate that your fear was reasonable and your actions were legally justified. We would present this evidence to the prosecutor in your case to argue that charges against you should be dismissed.
If the district attorney is not convinced, the next available resolution would be to plead self-defense at trial and persuade a judge or jury or agree to plead guilty to a lesser offense.
Because our attorneys have professional relationships with prosecutors across the state, we can reach out and begin negotiations right away to resolve a self-defense assault charge or a self-defense murder charge. Plea bargains can provide reasonable resolutions to many criminal cases. However, the unique aspects of your situation may make it preferable for you to go to trial involving charges for self-defense. Our attorneys will discuss the issues at hand with you before making a recommendation.
If a trial is necessary or your choice, our legal team will prepare a strong and persuasive self-defense case for you.
Contact Our N.J. Criminal Defense Attorneys Today
If you have been arrested or face indictment after defending yourself from an assault in New Jersey, exercise your right to remain silent and contact an experienced criminal defense attorney from the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall as soon as you can. Our team will work diligently to prepare a self-defense case and protect you from the consequences of the criminal charges you face.
You have the right under New Jersey law to defend yourself and others from unlawful attack or an intrusion into your home. We can help you prepare a valid self-defense case. Contact the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall now at (877) 450-8301 or online for a free initial consultation about how we can put our knowledge, skills and experience in New Jersey courts to work for you.