If you have heard of “stand your ground” laws passed in many states, you may wonder what the is in New Jersey and your rights to defend yourself and your family when somebody threatens you.
So far, New Jersey lawmakers have not passed a version of the stand your ground law, but this does not mean you have no right to self-defense in certain situations — such as when somebody breaks into your home.
Defending yourself in your New Jersey home
Though there is no stand-your-ground law in New Jersey, we do have the castle doctrine. This is an old legal principle that recognizes that a person’s home is their castle, and they have the right to defend it. Practically speaking, this means that when someone is threatening your life or safety inside your home, you have the right to use force on that person to end the threat without a duty to retreat from the scene. However, New Jersey’s castle doctrine does not apply when you were the “initial aggressor.” When the threat occurs outside your home, you have an obligation to retreat if possible before resorting to self-defense.
This is one of the more restrictive forms of self-defense rights in the country. In states with stand-your-ground laws, you generally have the right to use force in self-defense anywhere, including in public, without an obligation to try to retreat.
How to arm yourself legally
Enforcing the castle doctrine often involves the use of firearms. To buy a handgun, first, you must get a Permit to Purchase a Handgun, either through your local police department or the New Jersey State Police, if you do not have a local department. You present the permit, along with another form of ID, to a state-licensed firearms seller before purchasing the handgun.
When the Castle Doctrine becomes important
The castle doctrine provides you with a possible self-defense alibi if you are charged with assaulting or causing the death of someone in your home. Your criminal defense attorney can explain if the castle doctrine might apply in your particular case.