Thomas Carroll Blauvelt

When can you argue self-defense when facing assault charges?

You can avoid criminal liability when charged with assault by demonstrating you were acting out of self-defense. New Jersey laws allow you to use reasonable force to protect yourself from imminent harm.

It’s important to understand that self-defense is not a blanket justification for violence or use of force. A self-defense argument must meet certain criteria to be considered legally justifiable. Here is what you need to know.

The threat must be reasonable and imminent

You must reasonably believe that you are facing an immediate threat of harm to justify using force in self-defense. This means that a reasonable person in the same situation would perceive that the use of force is necessary to protect themselves.

In addition, the threat must be imminent or likely to occur. Your self-defense claim may not hold up in court if you use force against another person without a reasonable belief that they pose an immediate threat or after the threat has passed.

The proportionality of your response matters

Your use of force must also be proportional to the threat posed by the aggressor. In other words, you cannot use excessive force in response to a minor threat yet argue self-defense. For instance, you cannot respond with deadly force if someone threatens you verbally.

You may have a duty to retreat

In New Jersey, you are generally required to retreat from a confrontation before using deadly force in self-defense if you can do so safely. However, you do not have a duty to retreat when in your own home or dwelling unless you were the initial aggressor.

Successfully arguing self-defense can be complex due to the legal technicalities involved and the unique circumstances of your situation. As such, seeking legal guidance is prudent to help evaluate your defense strategies and present a strong argument to help your case.


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