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Self-defense and necessity as affirmative defenses

Simply being accused of a crime does not mean that a person is actually guilty of that crime. Similarly, a New Jersey resident may have done something that is illegal but the surrounding circumstances may have made the choice to do so reasonable. This is what the Cornell University Law School explains is the basis of an affirmative defense. A defendant admits to a particular act but offers some reason as to why it was done so as to reduce or eliminate any criminal liability.

Two types of affirmative defense are similar insofar as they both ascertain that the banned action was taken in order to remove or prevent another greater danger in some way. One of these is necessity and the other is self-defense.

The Legal Dictionary indicates that in a necessity affirmative defense, the imminent danger does not necessarily have to come from another person and must not have been caused by the defendant. This criminal act must be proven to be the only reasonable way to avoid the danger and must stop once the threat is gone.

With a self-defense plea, the other danger does in fact come from another person or persons. This plea may also be used if an action was taken to protect a third party instead of or in addition to the self. As with necessity, the defendant must show that there was no option other than the act in order to remove the threat. Additionally, the act must not have been out of proportion with the threat posed.



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