Does New Jersey have a Castle Doctrine? Our knowledgeable friend Mark Cheeseman shared information with us from US Law Shield about the Castle Doctrine in this state. We thought you'd like to hear it, too.
What is the Castle Doctrine?
The term Castle Doctrine has to do with whether or not you have a duty to retreat inside your home. This is different than Stand Your Ground, which has to do with whether or not you have a duty to retreat outside your home. New Jersey does not have Stand Your Ground, but does have Castle Doctrine law. However, even though New Jersey has the Castle Doctrine, there are certain rules and details that apply.
One rule is that you cannot be the initial aggressor that caused the situation to take place. If you’re the initial aggressor, then a duty to retreat exists. Also, if you can retreat with complete safety, then again, you have the duty imposed because you could escape with complete safety.
If you are not the initial aggressor and you cannot escape by way of complete safety, then you do not have to retreat. You are required, of course, to maintain all the other rules of using deadly force; you have to be justified in your use of deadly force, and all the same concepts of self-defense still apply.
Very pertinent to this discussion is State vs. Gartland. In Gartland, the defendant was a woman who was a victim of domestic violence, and she was attacked by a person who cohabitated with her. One of the exceptions to the Castle Doctrine is that the need to retreat does apply if someone is a cohabitant or lives in the house with you. Then, in fact, you do have to retreat.
And in this case, even though this woman was a victim of domestic abuse, she still had a duty to retreat because it was a cohabitant. So, be aware of these rules.
The essence of New Jersey’s law is that under the Castle Doctrine, you do not have a duty to retreat, with certain rules.
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