Kenneth Vercammen is a Middlesex County trial attorney who has published 130 articles in national and New Jersey publications on Criminal Law and litigation topics. He was awarded the NJ State State Bar Municipal Court Practitioner of the Year. He lectures and handles criminal cases, Municipal Court, DWI, traffic and other litigation matters. He is Co Chair of the ABA Criminal Law Committee, GP and was a speaker at the ABA Annual Meeting. To schedule a confidential consultation, call us or New clients email us evenings and weekends go to www.njlaws.com/ContactKenV.htm

Kenneth Vercammen & Associates, P.C,

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Edison, NJ 08817,

(732) 572-0500,

www.njlaws.com

Monday, December 19, 2011

NJSA 2C:3-4 Self Defense, Use of Force in Self-Protection

NJSA 2C:3-4 Self Defense, Use of Force in Self-Protection

2C:3-4. Use of Force in Self-Protection. a. Use of force justifiable for protection of the person. Subject to the provisions of this section and of section 2C:3-9, the use of force upon or toward another person is justifiable when the actor 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.

b . Limitations on justifying necessity for use of force.

(1)The use of force is not justifiable under this section:

(a)To resist an arrest which the actor knows is being made by a peace officer in the performance of his duties, although the arrest is unlawful, unless the peace officer employs unlawful force to effect such arrest; or

(b)To resist force used by the occupier or possessor of property or by another person on his behalf, where the actor knows that the person using the force is doing so under a claim of right to protect the property, except that this limitation shall not apply if:

(i)The actor is a public officer acting in the performance of his duties or a person lawfully assisting him therein or a person making or assisting in a lawful arrest;

(ii)The actor has been unlawfully dispossessed of the property and is making a reentry or recaption justified by section 2C:3-6; or

(iii) The actor reasonably believes that such force is necessary to protect himself against death or serious bodily harm.

(2)The use of deadly force is not justifiable under this section unless the actor reasonably believes that such force is necessary to protect himself against death or serious bodily harm; nor is it justifiable if:

(a)The actor, with the purpose of causing death or serious bodily harm, provoked the use of force against himself in the same encounter; or

(b)The actor knows that he can avoid the necessity of using such force with complete safety by retreating or by surrendering possession of a thing to a person asserting a claim of right thereto or by complying with a demand that he abstain from any action which he has no duty to take, except that:

(i)The actor is not obliged to retreat from his dwelling, unless he was the initial aggressor; and

(ii)A public officer justified in using force in the performance of his duties or a person justified in using force in his assistance or a person justified in using force in making an arrest or preventing an escape is not obliged to desist from efforts to perform such duty, effect such arrest or prevent such escape because of resistance or threatened resistance by or on behalf of the person against whom such action is directed.

(3)Except as required by paragraphs (1) and (2) of this subsection, a person employing protective force may estimate the necessity of using force when the force is used, without retreating, surrendering possession, doing any other act which he has no legal duty to do or abstaining from any lawful action.

c. (1) Notwithstanding the provisions of N.J.S.2C:3-5, N.J.S.2C:3-9, or this section, the use of force or deadly force upon or toward an intruder who is unlawfully in a dwelling is justifiable when the actor reasonably believes that the force is immediately necessary for the purpose of protecting himself or other persons in the dwelling against the use of unlawful force by the intruder on the present occasion.

(2)A reasonable belief exists when the actor, to protect himself or a third person, was in his own dwelling at the time of the offense or was privileged to be thereon and the encounter between the actor and intruder was sudden and unexpected, compelling the actor to act instantly and:

(a)The actor reasonably believed that the intruder would inflict personal injury upon the actor or others in the dwelling; or

(b)The actor demanded that the intruder disarm, surrender or withdraw, and the intruder refused to do so.

(3)An actor employing protective force may estimate the necessity of using force when the force is used, without retreating, surrendering possession, withdrawing or doing any other act which he has no legal duty to do or abstaining from any lawful action.

L.1978, c.95; amended 1987, c.120, s.1; 1999, c.73.

2C:3-5. Use of force for the protection of other persons
a. Subject to the provisions of this section and of section 2C:3-9, the use of force upon or toward the person of another is justifiable to protect a third person when:

(1) The actor would be justified under section 2C:3-4 in using such force to protect himself against the injury he believes to be threatened to the person whom he seeks to protect; and

(2) Under the circumstances as the actor reasonably believes them to be, the person whom he seeks to protect would be justified in using such protective force; and

(3) The actor reasonably believes that his intervention is necessary for the protection of such other person.

b. Notwithstanding subsection a. of this section:

(1) When the actor would be obliged under section 2C:3-4 b. (2)(b) to retreat or take other action he is not obliged to do so before using force for the protection of another person, unless he knows that he can thereby secure the complete safety of such other person, and

(2) When the person whom the actor seeks to protect would be obliged under section 2C:3-4 b. (2)(b) to retreat or take similar action if he knew that he could obtain complete safety by so doing, the actor is obliged to try to cause him to do so before using force in his protection if the actor knows that he can obtain complete safety in that way; and

(3) Neither the actor nor the person whom he seeks to protect is obliged to retreat when in the other's dwelling to any greater extent than in his own.

2C:3-7. Use of force in law enforcement

a. Use of force justifiable to effect an arrest. Subject to the provisions of this section and of section 2C:3-9, the use of force upon or toward the person of another is justifiable when the actor is making or assisting in making an arrest and the actor reasonably believes that such force is immediately necessary to effect a lawful arrest.

b. Limitations on the use of force.

(1) The use of force is not justifiable under this section unless:

(a) The actor makes known the purpose of the arrest or reasonably believes that it is otherwise known by or cannot reasonably be made known to the person to be arrested; and

(b) When the arrest is made under a warrant, the warrant is valid or reasonably believed by the actor to be valid.

(2) The use of deadly force is not justifiable under this section unless:

(a) The actor effecting the arrest is authorized to act as a peace officer or has been summoned by and is assisting a person whom he reasonably believes to be authorized to act as a peace officer; and

(b) The actor reasonably believes that the force employed creates no substantial risk of injury to innocent persons; and

(c) The actor reasonably believes that the crime for which the arrest is made was homicide, kidnapping, an offense under 2C:14-2 or 2C:14-3, arson, robbery, burglary of a dwelling, or an attempt to commit one of these crimes; and

(d) The actor reasonably believes:

(i) There is an imminent threat of deadly force to himself or a third party; or

(ii) The use of deadly force is necessary to thwart the commission of a crime as set forth in subparagraph (c) of this paragraph; or

(iii) The use of deadly force is necessary to prevent an escape.

c. Use of force to prevent escape from custody. The use of force to prevent the escape of an arrested person from custody is justifiable when the force could, under subsections a. and b. of this section, have been employed to effect the arrest under which the person is in custody. A correction officer or other person authorized to act as a peace officer is, however, justified in using any force including deadly force, which he reasonably believes to be immediately necessary to prevent the escape of a person committed to a jail, prison, or other institution for the detention of persons charged with or convicted of an offense so long as the actor believes that the force employed creates no substantial risk of injury to innocent persons.

d. Use of force by private person assisting an unlawful arrest.

(1) A private person who is summoned by a peace officer to assist in effecting an unlawful arrest is justified in using any force which he would be justified in using if the arrest were lawful, provided that he does not believe the arrest is unlawful.

(2) A private person who assists another private person in effecting an unlawful arrest, or who, not being summoned, assists a peace officer in effecting an unlawful arrest, is justified in using any force which he would be justified in using if the arrest were lawful, provided that (a) he reasonably believes the arrest is lawful, and (b) the arrest would be lawful if the facts were as he believes them to be and such belief is reasonable.

e. Use of force to prevent suicide or the commission of a crime. The use of force upon or toward the person of another is justifiable when the actor reasonably believes that such force is immediately necessary to prevent such other person from committing suicide, inflicting serious bodily harm upon himself, committing or consummating the commission of a crime involving or threatening bodily harm, damage to or loss of property or a breach of the peace, except that:

(1) Any limitations imposed by the other provisions of this chapter on the justifiable use of force in self-protection, for the protection of others, the protection of property, the effectuation of an arrest or the prevention of an escape from custody shall apply notwithstanding the criminality of the conduct against which such force is used; and

(2) The use of deadly force is not in any event justifiable under this subsection unless the actor reasonably believes that it is likely that the person whom he seeks to prevent from committing a crime will endanger human life or inflict serious bodily harm upon another unless the commission or the consummation of the crime is prevented and that the use of such force presents no substantial risk of injury to innocent persons.

L.1978, c. 95, s. 2C:3-7, eff. Sept. 1, 1979. Amended by L.1979, c. 178, s. 10, eff. Sept. 1, 1979; L.1981, c. 290, s. 5, eff. Sept. 24, 1981.

2C:3-8. Use of force by persons with special responsibility for care, discipline or safety of others

The use of force upon or toward the person of another is justifiable as permitted by law or as would be a defense in a civil action based thereon where the actor has been vested or entrusted with special responsibility for the care, supervision, discipline or safety of another or of others and the force is used for the purpose of and, subject to section 2C:3-9(b), to the extent necessary to further that responsibility, unless:

a. The code or the law defining the offense deals with the specific situation involved; or

b. A legislative purpose to exclude the justification claimed otherwise plainly appears; or

c. Deadly force is used, in which case such force must be otherwise justifiable under the provisions of this chapter.

L.1978, c. 95, s. 2C:3-8, eff. Sept. 1, 1979.

2C:3-9. Mistake of law as to unlawfulness of force or legality of arrest; reckless or negligent use of excessive but otherwise justifiable force; reckless or negligent injury or risk of injury to innocent persons

a. The justification afforded by sections 2C:3-4 to 2C:3-7 is unavailable when:

(1) The actor's belief in the unlawfulness of the force or conduct against which he employs protective force or his belief in the lawfulness of an arrest which he endeavors to effect by force is erroneous; and

(2) His error is due to ignorance or mistake as to the provisions of the code, any other provisions of the criminal law or the law governing the legality of an arrest or search.

b. (Deleted by amendment; P.L.1981, c. 290.)

c. When the actor is justified under sections 2C:3-3 to 2C:3-8 in using force upon or toward the person of another but he recklessly or negligently injures or creates a risk of injury to innocent persons, the justification afforded by those sections is unavailable in a prosecution for such recklessness or negligence towards innocent persons.