Stories detailing cases of assault in New Jersey may often include claims from the accused stating that they only acted in self-defense. People might meet such claims with skepticism, only to later discover themselves that there indeed are scenarios where a person feels compelled to respond to force with more force.
During an altercation, many people assume that they can use physical means to protect themselves. However, that may not always be the case.
Understanding “the castle doctrine”
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, many states’ self-defense laws have their foundations in an old English common law philosophy known as “the Castle Doctrine.” This recognizes that people should be able to defend their homes and other places where they are legally entitled to be (such as their vehicles and places of employment).
Per the New Jersey Legislature, the state subscribes to this philosophy. Section 2C:3-4 of the state’s statutes says that authorities assume that a reasonable belief of harm exists when someone reacts to a sudden and unexpected intrusion believing that the intruder intended to inflict serious injury on them or another in their dwelling, or after the intruder refused to disarm, surrender or withdraw after a demand to do so. That belief then justified defensive action.
Defending oneself outside of the home
What about threats encountered outside of the home or office? The law justifies self-defense when an individual uses it to defend themselves from a reasonable fear of harm. Exceptions include scenarios where the reaction is against a law enforcement officer trying to execute their duties or where someone tries to re-obtain property that was not lawfully theirs in the first place.
Self-defense can be a valid argument against a charge of assault or other similar criminal accusations. However, a strong case is necessary to prove that an individual acted to protect his or her own life.