What You Need to Know about Stand Your Ground Rules in NJ
How New Jersey Approaches Stand Your Ground and Applicability to Charges for Assault, Manslaughter, and Murder
When a trespasser enters your front yard late at night, you may feel justified to do whatever is necessary to get them off your property. In New Jersey, it may be legal to use force. How much force and when it is justified depends on the situation. In most circumstances, an intruder on your property attempting to enter your home through a closed window or door is justification for using force to protect your property, yourself, and your loved ones. In other states, this legal reasoning underpins the stand-your-ground laws.
Is there a Stand Your Ground Law in NJ?
While New Jersey does not have a stand-your-ground law, the right to fight someone threatening you or your property, it does have the Castle Doctrine Self-Defense Law. This law permits using force when it is justified to defend a person and property. N.J.S.A. 2C:3-6 contains the Castle Doctrine Self-Defense Law, which justifies using force when an individual “reasonably believes” it is necessary to prevent or end a “criminal trespass.” The justification is a defense for crimes associated with the consequences of using force, such as manslaughter or aggravated assault.
Scope of New Jersey’s Castle Doctrine
When it comes to the Castle Doctrine, the law does have qualifications, however. It distinguishes between force and deadly force. To use justifiable force when facing an intruder, the individual using force must be protecting property, self, or others on property they have the legal right to defend, and they must first request the intruder to cease interfering with their use, possession, or ownership of such property. The law does not require such a request if it would be pointless to do so, endanger someone, incite further damage to the property to be protected, or substantially threaten the intruder, and the requester knows it.
Justifying deadly force is even more limited. The use of deadly force may be acceptable when someone is forcing or attempting to force the property owner or one in rightful possession out of ownership or control. Then, the owner or possessor may use deadly force. They may also use deadly force to defend against someone committing or attempting to commit arson, burglary, robbery, criminal theft, or property damage when the property defender reasonably believes the intruder is using or plans to use deadly force that would expose the defender and anyone else in their presence to bodily harm.
When someone protects their home using deadly force to prevent or stop an intruder, the legal presumption is that the one defending their home reasonably believed they were in danger. The burden of proof, beyond a reasonable doubt, is on the prosecution to prove the accused protecting their home did not sense danger or had no reasonable belief it existed.
The law also justifies using force, not deadly force, to protect personal property when the property defender reasonably believes they must use such forceful means to prevent theft or other infraction against their personal property. The use of deadly force to protect private property is not justifiable under this code section, and the use of any force, fatal or otherwise, must be preceded by a request to cease the criminal behavior unless it would be fruitless or dangerous to property or persons to do so.
Other Self-Defense Laws for Protecting Oneself or Others in New Jersey
N.J.S.A. 2C:3-4 and N.J.S.A. 2C:3-5 allow individuals to use force justifiably when they reasonably believe they must to protect themselves and others against an attack, except when the attacking person is protecting their rightful property. However, the exception does not apply when the attacker fends off a public officer performing their job or someone retaking their lawful property.
Furthermore, it is not justifiable to provoke an attack and then defend against or resist arrest, but it is justifiable to protect oneself or another from what one believes to be an attack from a third party. Moreover, deadly force is not justifiable unless the user faces deadly force that threatens limb or life. Deadly force is not justified when the self-defender provokes the attack or can retreat without endangering self or others.
The Distinction Between Stand Your Ground and The Castle Doctrine in NJ
People may confuse the Castle Doctrine of self-defense with stand-your-ground laws. However, the Castle Doctrine permits a lawful occupant of a property to use force or deadly force to defend their property (home, apartment, or other dwelling) and people on their property. Stand your ground laws allow the use of force in defense of others in public places, such as on public streets, in addition to their own real and personal property, such as residences and cars.
What Happens when You Use a Gun Against an Intruder in Your Home in NJ?
Self-defense typically arises when the state charges someone for murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, homicide, or aggravated assault. When someone shoots, strikes, or punches another to cause them injury or death, they may face severe charges until the facts bear out what occurred.
Since New Jerseyans are permitted to keep a legally purchased and licensed firearm on their property for self-defense, chances are an intruder may face the barrel of a gun. Once a person pulls the trigger, the facts must bear what occurred. New Jersey’s stance is that everyone must avoid deadly force if possible and use it only when it is impossible to prevent; only then is deadly force justified. In other words, the state indicts and forces defendants to prove self-defense.
What is justifiable action in any case is a matter of evaluating reasonable belief that the life and limb of self or others are in danger. Some cases are clear: an intruder with a gun in your house more clearly justifies using a weapon to get the intruder out or protect you and the occupants. However, justification may be less apparent when the intruder is not in the home and does not appear to have a weapon. When one has time to escape and call the police, they must do that rather than use deadly force.
Talk to Our Defense Attorneys about Strategies for Beating Your Charges in New Jersey
Since New Jersey burdens the accused with making the right choices and evaluating in heated, urgent moments whether someone is a danger, you need the most skilled criminal defense attorney when the state charges you with serious crimes like homicide, manslaughter, or aggravated assault. You could face five to life for these types of criminal offenses, so you must prove self-defense with the help of a sharp, experienced criminal defense lawyer such as those on our team at The Tormey Law Firm.
Our criminal attorneys can successfully paint a picture of what occurred from your vantage point. The jury must understand how, when, and why you acted the way you did and how you perceived that you or someone else needed protection for their lives. That way, we can prove your self-defense claim and discredit the state’s version of the story. This proof is crucial when your self-defense actions occurred away from home, and the state asserts you could have avoided using force or deadly force.
If you face a potential conviction for a first or second degree crime in New Jersey while defending yourself or others, contact our criminal defense attorneys right away for help with your case. We can thoroughly explain the applicability of stand your ground laws, the castle doctrine, and self-defense in your case in Bergen County, Hudson County, Passaic County, Union County, Morris County, Essex County, or anywhere else in New Jersey and explain how we can assist with defending you. Call (201)-556-1570 or contact us online for further information.