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Requirements for a self-defense argument

On Behalf of | Jan 21, 2022 | Criminal Defense

All states, including New Jersey, allow people to protect themselves from physical harm using force. A violent action that may otherwise be considered a crime could be legal if it was an act of self-defense. However, there are specific requirements for a self-defense argument to be successful.

Imminent threat

In most cases, a self-defense argument can only be used in situations where there was an imminent threat. For example, a person is allowed to physically defend themselves during an attempted kidnapping so that they can get away from the kidnapper. However, if the victim of a violent crime used force against their assailant weeks later, this would be considered retaliation, not self-defense.

Genuine fear of harm

Another requirement that must be proven for a self-defense argument is a genuine fear of physical harm. The person that is claiming self-defense must have genuinely perceived that the aggressor was going to hurt or kill them. This genuine fear can still exist and be used as an argument for self-defense even if the defendant was mistaken about a person’s intentions.

Reasonable response

In a criminal trial involving a self-defense strategy, it’s important that the defendant proves that their response to a threat was reasonable. The defendant must be able to demonstrate that once a threat to their life was eliminated, they stopped using force against their assailant. If the defendant used too much force in proportion to the threat, they may only be able to prove imperfect self-defense.

There is no stand-your-ground law in New Jersey

Some states have a stand-your-ground law that allows people to use lethal force without retreating. However, New Jersey requires people who are victims of violence to attempt to get away from an assailant whenever possible. It’s important to understand that lethal self-defense can only be used when there is no possibility of retreating from a violent situation.