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The Requirements for Claiming Self-Defense When Charged with Assault?

August 24, 2021 | Posted In Criminal Law

If you are facing an assault charge in New Jersey, successfully claiming self-defense could save you from a conviction. But, while this can be an effective defense strategy, it isn’t an option in all cases. In fact, even if you believed that you were simply doing what was necessary to protect yourself, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you were acting in “self-defense” as defined by New Jersey law. In this article, our New Jersey assault lawyers explain when the defense of self-defense is available.

What Qualifies as Self-Defense?

Self-defense is defined in Section 2C:3-4 of the New Jersey Statutes. This section of the law provides that the use of force qualifies as self-defense if a person, “reasonably believes that such force is immediately necessary for the purpose of protecting himself against the use of unlawful force by such other person on the present occasion.” The use of deadly force is only justified if a person reasonably believes that the use of such force is necessary to prevent “death or serious bodily harm.”

When Can You Claim Self-Defense in New Jersey?

The right to use force (including deadly force) in self-defense is subject to several exceptions. In other words, the fact that you reasonably believed you were in imminent danger does not necessarily mean that you were justified in using force under New Jersey law. For example, if you are facing an assault charge and your case involves any of the following scenarios, you may be unable to claim self-defense:

  • You provoked the attack, or you were trespassing on the attacker’s property;
  • You used deadly force in response to a threat that did not pose a risk of death or serious bodily harm; or,
  • You are being charged with assaulting a police officer while resisting or attempting to evade arrest.

So, when can you claim self-defense when charged with assault in New Jersey? Some examples of scenarios in which this defense may be available to you include:

  • An intruder entered your home, and you acted to protect yourself using force that was proportional to the force used or threatened against you;  
  • You were attacked in public, you did not have an option to retreat and you responded with force that was proportional to the force used against you;
  • You reasonably believed that someone else was about to attack you, you did not have an option to retreat and you responded with force that was proportional to the force you reasonably feared.

Again, these are just examples. Whether you can argue self-defense (or any other defense) to beat your assault charge depends entirely on the unique facts of your case. If you are facing an assault charge and have questions about New Jersey’s self-defense law, you should consult with an attorney promptly.

Talk to a New Jersey Assault Lawyer in Confidence

Assault charges carry serious penalties in New Jersey, and a conviction can negatively impact all aspects of your life. To find out if you can claim self-defense in your case, schedule a confidential consultation with a New Jersey assault lawyer at Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A. Call us at 877-435-6371 or request an appointment 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.

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