Claims of self-defense may seem to be cited so often as justification for crimes allegedly committed in Cranford that many may have trouble assigning any validity to them. Yet there certainly are legitimate cases where the use of force (even deadly force) may be justified. Indeed, information compiled by the Violence Policy Center shows that as recently as 2012, 259 of the gun-related homicides reported in the U.S. were determined to be justifiable. 

Citing self-defense, however, requires that one demonstrate that his or her use of it was in accordance with the law. Fortunately, the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice is very clear is defining when the use of force may be justified. Generally speaking, it is lawful to forcefully protect oneself if it is believed to be necessary to avoid death or serious bodily harm. There are, however, limitations to this right. If, for example, one was the aggressor in provoking an altercation in which he or she eventually had to use force for protection, his or her actions may still be considered illegal. The same is true in any of the following scenarios: 

  • He or she had the opportunity to safely retreat from the situation
  • He or she could have surrendered possession of an item over which another was claiming ownership
  • He or she could have complied with a request to abstain from doing something he or she has no duty to do

In cases where an intruder enters one’s home, the homeowner is justified to use force in protecting him or herself (and others in the home) when the encounter compelled him or her to act instantly. He or she must also have demanded that the intruder leave or disarm (and the intruder refused to do so) or believed that the intruder indeed intended to do harm.