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The Doctrine Of Self Defense

Hudson Law Firm Feb. 2, 2023

defense2Self-defense immunity from criminal conviction in New Jersey is available under certain circumstances. In New Jersey, a defendant must show that he had a reasonable belief of imminent danger, and that the force used was necessary to defend himself from the danger. If the court finds that the defendant acted reasonably and in self-defense, the defendant may be found not guilty of the charges.

English common law originally recognized the right to self-defense in the 17th century, when jurist Sir William Blackstone outlined the principles of liberty in his Commentaries on the Laws of England. According to Blackstone, individuals had the right to use reasonable force to protect themselves and their property from unlawful attack. This concept of self-defense has since been adopted and codified into laws in many countries, including the United States.

In order for a defendant to be granted immunity from criminal charges, the defense must be able to prove :

  1. the defendant had a reasonable belief that the use of force was necessary to protect himself from death or serious bodily injury;

  2. the defendant had a reasonable opportunity to retreat;

  3. the defendant's use of force was proportionate to the attack; and

  4. the defendant's use of force was consistent with the law.

Individuals do not have an absolute duty to retreat before using force if they are in a place where they have a legal right to be. For example, the castle doctrine in New Jersey is a legal doctrine that may allow residents or occupants of a home to use deadly force to defend against violent home invaders. The doctrine is based on the principle that a person's home is his or her castle and should be defended appropriately. A person may use deadly force in self-defense if they have a reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury. The burden of proof is, however, on the defendant to prove that their actions were necessary to protect themselves or their property.

The defendant in a self-defense case can be the instigator of the altercation. However, the defense must be able to prove that the defendant’s initial provocation was reasonable. Finally, deadly force is only justifiable if the defendant reasonably believes it is necessary to protect himself from death or serious bodily injury.