You have been charged with murder. You killed someone, but you only did it because they left you with absolutely no other choice. Your life has been turned upside down by the impossible choice you were forced to make, and your future hangs in the balance. Can you claim self-defense? If so, what will it take for you to prove your innocence? Our New Jersey murder lawyer explains.
Understanding Self-Defense in New Jersey Murder Cases
Self-defense is what is known as a “complete” defense to a murder charge in New Jersey. This means that if you can prove that you acted in self-defense, you can avoid a conviction entirely. Pleading self-defense does not subject you to a lesser charge or a reduced sentence. If your effort to assert self-defense is successful, then you will be entitled to walk free.
However, self-defense is also what is known as an “affirmative” defense. This means that you must be able to prove that you acted in self-defense—as defined by New Jersey law. Claiming self-defense involves acknowledging that you acted with deadly force, and you must be able to prove that your actions were justified in light of the circumstances you faced.
So, while arguing self-defense can be a strong defense strategy, it can also be a difficult – and potentially risky – defense strategy to pursue. If you believe you have grounds to claim self-defense, you will want to begin working with a New Jersey murder lawyer right away.
Proving That You Acted in Self-Defense During Your Murder Case
To claim self-defense in your New Jersey murder case, you must be able to prove that you “reasonably” believed that your use of deadly force was “immediately necessary” to protect yourself against death or serious bodily harm. This is the basic standard for arguing self-defense under New Jersey law. However, there are also some limitations. For example, you cannot claim self-defense if:
- You provoked the encounter;
- You knew that you could have avoided the use of deadly force with “complete safety” by retreating; or,
- You were resisting the use of force by a police officer.
These exceptions (and the other exceptions that prohibit the use of deadly force in self-defense) won’t apply in many cases. So, most likely, successfully claiming self-defense will involve proving that you meet the basic standard. This will involve being prepared to demonstrate that:
- Your belief in the need to use deadly force was “reasonable” in light of the circumstances you were presented;
- You reasonably believed that the use of deadly force was “immediately necessary” and that you did not have alternatives available; and,
- The person against whom you used deadly force presented a threat for “death or serious bodily harm.”
Speak with a New Jersey Murder Lawyer in Confidence
Regardless of the defenses you have available, if you are facing a murder charge in New Jersey, you need to speak with a lawyer right away. To schedule a consultation with a New Jersey murder lawyer at Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A., call 877-435-6371 or tell us how we can reach you online now.
Over 20 attorneys at HCK have extensive experience in defending criminal cases as they were former assistant prosecutors and/or police officers for a combined total of over 600 years of law enforcement experience. You can find out more about them on our site, and you can call Managing Partner Ron Helmer on his cell phone at 609 685-0665.