Self-Defense And the Use of Deadly Force Has Very Specific Requirements

State v. Sanders

Docket No. A-1965-18

Decided May 13, 2021

Submitted by New Jersey Criminal Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.

In a published decision, the Appellate Division of New Jersey reviewed whether defendant self defense was a defense to endangering after defendant stabbed a store clerk and fled without calling emergency services.

In State v. Sanders, just before midnight on May 19, 2017, Newark police officers were dispatched to a strip mall following a reported stabbing. Upon arrival, they observed a man later identified as Kendall Anthony lying on the ground in front of one of the stores bleeding from a stab wound. Anthony was breathing but unconscious when the officers arrived. An ambulance transported Anthony to University Hospital where he died the following morning from his injuries. The medical examiner subsequently determined that Anthony died from a single stab wound through the heart.

During the investigation, police obtained surveillance video of the stabbing from the store in question. An Essex County Prosecutor’s Office detective identified defendant from viewing the video and interviewing witnesses. The detective arrested defendant on May 22, 2017, and transported him to the prosecutor’s office where he provided a recorded statement after waiving his Miranda rights.

Defendant stated he tried to get a cigarette.  Anthony refused him into the store and said multiple times he was going to beat up defendant in front of the people outside.  Defendant pulled a knife to attempt to scare Anthony. Anthony swung and defendant stabbed Anthony in the chest.  Defendant fled.

Defendant was charged in a four-count indictment with first-degree murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3(a)(1) (count one); fourth-degree unlawful possession of a weapon, namely, a knife, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5(d) (count two); third-degree possession of the knife for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4(d) (count three); and third-degree endangering an injured victim, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1.2(a) (count four).

The jury was instructed on self defense and the jury found defendant guilty of endangering and nothing more. Defendant appealed, arguing the judge erred by not instructing the jury that self defense applies to endangering.

The Appellate Division affirmed, finding the endangering statute does not require the use of unlawful force or the commission of a crime by the defendant for liability to attach.  All that is required is defendant to cause bodily injury then flee the scene with reasonable belief the person was in a vulnerable state. Because that was the situation here, the Appellate Division affirmed.

Self defense has very specific requirements.  Subsection (a) of N.J.S.A. 2C:3- 4 provides that “the use of force upon or toward another person is justifiable when the actor reasonably believes 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.” Subsection (b), in turn, provides “[l]imitations on justifying necessity for use of force,” including limitations placed on “[t]he use of deadly force . . . .” N.J.S.A. 2C:3-4(b)(2). Under that subsection, “deadly force is not justifiable . . . unless the actor reasonably believes that such force is necessary to protect himself against death or serious bodily harm” or if “[t]he actor knows that he can avoid the necessity of using such force with complete safety by retreating . . . .” N.J.S.A. 2C:3-4(b)(2)(b)..

If you have been charged with a crime that may involve self defense contact Hark & Hark immediately.

At Hark & Hark, we represent clients in Superior Court for criminal matters like the present case involving motions to suppress. We vigorously defend our clients by fighting to uphold their constitutional rights, and ensure law enforcement follow proper procedures to legally make an arrest.

We offer payment plan options to clients financially incapable of providing full payment upfront. If you are facing criminal charges similar to this circumstance, please call us to discuss the matter. At Hark & Hark, we represent clients for any case in any county in New Jersey including Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Mercer, Ocean, and Salem counties. We represent clients in all towns in New Jersey, including Newark, Jersey City, Paterson, Elizabeth, Edison, Woodbridge, Lakewood, Toms River, Hamilton, Trenton, Clifton, Camden, Brick, Cherry Hill, Passaic, Middletown, Union City, Old Bridge, Gloucester Township, East Orange, Bayonne, Franklin Township, North Bergen, Vineland, and Union.


Criminal Civil Lawyer

Jeffrey Hark is a New Jersey Civil and Criminal Lawyer.

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