NJ Supreme Court Says Self-Defense Applies to Home Weapons

Newark NJ Gun Crime Lawyers On June 8, 2017, the New Jersey Supreme Court overturned the weapon possession conviction of a man who held a machete in his hand during a confrontation in the doorway of his family’s home. In State v. Montalvo, __ N.J.__ (June 8, 2017), the NJ Supreme Court ruled that the defendant was justified in retrieving the knife to defend himself and his family.

In 2012, the man and his neighbor were in a dispute, resulting in the neighbor knocking, kicking, and slamming on the man’s door. As a result, the defendant retrieved a machete from his closet and answered the door. Ultimately, he was charged with the unlawful possession of a weapon and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose. During trial, the superior court instructed the jury that the self-defense doctrine did not apply to the unlawful possession of a weapon charge. As a result of the jury instruction, the defendant was ultimately convicted of the criminal weapons charge.

New Jersey’s highest court reviewed the trial court ruling and ultimately held that the self-defense doctrine does apply to weapons possession charges in a person’s home because “the right to possess a weapon in one’s own home for self-defense would be of little effect if one were required to keep the weapon out-of-hand, picking it up only ‘spontaneously.’” Justice Faustino J. Fernandez-Vina further wrote that “such a rule would negate the purpose of possessing a weapon for defense of the home” and “would mean that an individual could lawfully answer the door with a loaded gun in a holster yet would be criminally liable if he held a cutting tool in hand.”

When it comes to the possession of firearms in one’s home in New Jersey, the criminal code clearly delineates an exception to the unlawful possession of firearms laws. Specifically, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-6(e) sets forth that the unlawful possession of firearms law shall not be construed to prevent a person from keeping or carrying about his place of business, residence, premises, or other land owned or possessed by him, any firearm, or from carrying the same, in the manner specified by law, from any place of purchase to his residence or place of business, between his dwelling and his place of business, between one place of business or residence and another when moving, or between his dwelling or place of business and place where such firearms are repaired, for the purpose of repair.

Can I defend myself with a weapon in my home in New Jersey?

If you are facing weapons charges such as the unlawful possession of a weapon or possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose as the result of being found in possession of a knife, shotgun, rifle, or handgun, the experienced weapons defense lawyers at the Tormey Law Firm are available 24/7 to discuss your case and handle your defense.