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Differentiating Between Self-Defense, Murder, and Manslaughter in New Jersey

The differences between killing charges in New Jersey

Unfortunately, the death of one individual at the hands of another is not uncommon. There are some cases in which such a death is justified. However, there are more cases in which it is not. How do you know when a killing is justifiable and when it is criminal? Here are the differences under New Jersey law between three possible charges: self-defense, murder, and manslaughter. 

What is Self-Defense?

In some cases, a killing is justifiable, meaning that an individual had the right to kill another person. Under New Jersey law, “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 unlawful force by such other person on the present occasion.” This means that an individual is allowed to defend himself or herself when in a situation where they reasonably believe that someone is about to commit serious bodily harm. Rather than wait for such bodily harm to occur, you have the right to use equal force. 

Not only do you have the right in New Jersey to protect yourself, but you also have the right to do so to defend others. Simply put, if you see another person whom you reasonably believe is about to receive serious bodily harm or be killed, you also have the right to defend that individual by the use of force. 

Though not always, under some circumstances, the state of New Jersey also allows you the right to defend against your home. While some states have “Stand Your Ground” laws that always protect the homeowner, New Jersey requires that you first ask an intruder to leave your home. However, this requirement can be waived if it proves useless or would only put people or property at great risk. This type of a defense (defense of your home) is determined on a case-by-case basis given the particular set of facts and circumstances.

What Are Murder and Manslaughter?

If you do not meet the requirements for your actions to be classified as self-defense, you may be charged with either manslaughter or murder. The main difference between the two charges comes down to intent. Murder occurs when an individual knowingly and purposefully kills another person or causes substantial bodily harm that later causes their death. Alternatively, manslaughter does not require an intent – it comes down to reckless conduct. For instance, an individual who kills their wife and her lover when he finds them together may be considered a “heat of passion”. In other words, one in which the killer had some form of provocation. Again, the classification of the charge depends on the facts and circumstances of each individual case. 

The Law Office of Michele Alcalde Can Help

Since the specific charge comes down to the facts and circumstances, it can prove very difficult to determine and present the proper defense. Also, a conviction can easily result in a permanent criminal record. That is why if you have been charged with a killing crime, it is so important that you consult with a New Jersey criminal defense attorney. A criminal defense attorney has the knowledge and experience to help you.

If you were arrested or charged with murder or manslaughter in New Jersey, the Law Office if Michele Alcalde can help. To learn more or schedule a consultation, contact us online or call us directly at 732-766-1407 today.

Posted in: Expungement Law