If you engage in physical aggression against another person, New Jersey will likely charge you with a criminal offense. Especially if the other person reports the issue to the police or suffers injuries that require medical intervention, you could face criminal charges for assault under New Jersey law.
Sometimes, the individual charged with assault is not a criminal but rather someone who merely wanted to defend themselves from someone else’s aggressive behavior. Can you raise a defense to assault charges in New Jersey by claiming you acted in self-defense?
Yes, New Jersey recognizes the right to defend yourself
Those accused of violent crimes, including assault and even homicide, can raise an affirmative defense by claiming they acted in self-defense. In an affirmative defense, you do not challenge the prosecutor’s claim that you did something but rather the idea that it was illegal.
You claim that the situation made your use of force legal. If you feared for your own safety, needed to defend your property or wanted to protect a third person, you may have engaged in physical violence to protect yourself, your property or another person.
To raise a claim of self-defense, you cannot be the one who initiated the physical contact or escalated the situation. You also typically need to try to leave the situation or calm things down if possible before resorting to physical force, especially if the situation occurs in a public space.
If there are witnesses or security camera footage, that corroborating evidence could make it easier for you to prove that the other party struck you first, threatened another person or had engaged in some kind of criminal activity in which you felt the need to intervene. The state will need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you didn’t have a reasonable need to act in self-defense.
There are other possible assault defenses as well
Self-defense is only one of several viable strategies for defending against assault charges in New Jersey. An evaluation of the evidence against you can help you determine if a self-defense claim is the right approach. You may have an easier time challenging evidence in some cases, for example.
Learning more about criminal defense strategies can help you fight back when someone accuses you of misconduct when you only wanted to protect yourself.