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Can you use physical force to defend yourself in New Jersey?

On Behalf of | Apr 13, 2022 | Criminal charges

You’ve lived your whole life without ever using physical violence. Violence is alien to most people, and the mere thought of it can be extremely upsetting.

One day, you’re having a look around Atlantic city with your family. You were minding your own business when approached by a hostile individual. They’ve threatened you with violence and an attack seems imminent. What can you do? Are you entitled to defend yourself?

Can you get out of there?

The first question you have to ask yourself is whether or not violence is avoidable. While you may be lawfully entitled to use physical force to defend yourself, this may not hold up in court if there was a clear path to safely retreat.

Was force absolutely necessary?

If you cannot safely leave the area, and a violent attack is imminent, then you are entitled to use physical force to defend yourself. This applies equally if a member of your family is under attack, rather than you directly.

The extent of the force used

The amount of force used to defend yourself must be proportionate. If you use excessive force or continue to act violently after the danger has passed, you could find yourself in trouble with the law.

If the attacker is unarmed and you wield a weapon, such as a knife or a firearm, this is also likely to be deemed unlawful. Deadly force in self-defense is only justified if the attack directed your way involves the use of or threat of immediate deadly force. In other words, if you did not apply deadly force at the time, then your own life was in certain danger.

The law around self-defense in New Jersey can be complex. If you have been charged after legitimately defending yourself, it is possible that you have not committed a crime and need to assert your legal rights.