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Does New Jersey have a duty to retreat?

On Behalf of | Jan 17, 2023 | Criminal charges

In all states, you have a right to defend yourself from physical harm. There are situations in which you can use deadly force. You do need to realistically believe that you are in danger of potentially suffering fatal injuries yourself. The force you use has to be proportionate to the threat you are facing.

However, in some states, you have a duty to retreat first. This means that you have to leave the confrontation if you can find a way to do it. If you can’t, only then can you use force to protect yourself. The force that you think is justified may actually turn out to be excessive if the court determines that you could have retreated first. Does New Jersey have one of these laws?

It applies outside of your home

New Jersey does indeed have a duty to retreat. This doesn’t mean that you are always obligated to retreat, and you may find yourself in a situation where it is impossible. But if there are ways that you can leave the situation without resorting to physical force, you are expected to utilize them. This applies when using deadly force.

However, it only applies when you are not at your home during the confrontation. Maybe you are at a bar, a restaurant, a store or a sporting event. If it’s a public place in which you have a right to be, you can defend yourself, but you have to adhere to the duty to retreat before using deadly force. If it’s your home, then you have a right to use any force that is necessary without attempting to leave first. Everyone has a right to safety and security within their own home, which is known as the castle doctrine. If you fear for your life or the lives of your loved ones, even fatal force may be justified.

It’s very important to understand how all of this works if you’re facing criminal charges for what you believe was a self-defense incident, so make sure you know what steps to take. You do have legal options in the face of such charges.