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When can you use force to defend yourself?

On Behalf of | Dec 23, 2022 | Criminal charges

The overwhelming majority of individuals take no pleasure from being involved in physical violence of any kind. Unfortunately, a large number of these people will also find themselves under attack at some point in time.

In such a scenario, are you entitled to use force to defend yourself, or could you face criminal charges? It depends on the situation.

Was force directed against you?

There are situations where you are legally entitled to defend yourself with force in New Jersey, but these are subject to conditions. For a claim of self-defense to be valid, the aggressor must have directed unlawful force toward you. You must have either been subjected to a physical attack or legitimately believed that you were in physical danger.

Was force necessary?

Physical force can only be used lawfully if it is necessary to defend yourself from harm. So, if someone shoved you and walked away, you would not be justified in approaching them and using force because the immediate threat was already over.

Was the force reasonable?

The force used in self-defense must also be proportionate. For instance, if someone struck you once, you would not be justified in striking them ten times with much more force. It would also be disproportionate if you used a deadly weapon on an individual who was unarmed.

As you can see, the laws on self-defense can be quite complex. This is why it’s important not to navigate a criminal case on your own. Having legal guidance behind you will help you to show that the force you used in your situation was justified and proportionate.