NJ Court: State Can’t Criminalize Possession of “Pencils” and Other Lawful Objects for Home Self-defense.
It took a conviction, then a lost appeal, and finally the State Supreme Court of Appeals in New Jersey to say it is not a criminal offence to possess something like "a sharpened pencil" (example used by the SCA judge) in your house and hold it in your hand when you feel threatened by some aggressor outside your door.
Seemed that an aggressor who assumed a threatening attitude towards you on YOUR property could lay criminal charges against you if HE felt threatened by anything you had in your hand which could be used to defend yourself or your property. Sounds silly? Maybe - but it was the law in New Jersey until recently.
I am not unfamiliar with legalese but this is pushing it into yuckspeak:
Montalvo [the home owner] was arrested on charges that included two weapon possession offenses. The first count, possession with a purpose to use the weapon unlawfully, requires an intent to use the weapon against another’s person or property. The second was a violation of N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:39-5(d): ("knowingly possessing the machete under circumstances not manifestly appropriate for such lawful uses as it may have), which prohibits possession of a weapon other than a firearm where the defendant has not yet formed an intent to use the object as a weapon, but possesses it under circumstances in which it is likely to be so used."
Because New Jersey law defines a 'weapon' as “anything readily capable of lethal use or inflicting serious bodily injury,” Section 2C:39-5(d) criminalizes possession of ordinarily lawful objects (scissors, razors, kitchen knives) in circumstances where the possession is not “manifestly appropriate for lawful use", regardless of the actual intent of the possessor. This offence is a fourth degree crime, punishable by between three and five years’ incarceration on conviction.
And here is the crux of this suddenly becoming the criminal when exercising your obligation as man of the house to protect your property and family:
"At Montalvo’s trial, the model instructions to the jury directed that only three elements were necessary for a Section 2C:39-5(d) conviction: a weapon, possessed “knowingly,” in circumstances where a reasonable person would agree the object was likely to be used as a weapon. In response to the jury’s questions about self-defense, the judge advised that self-defense could not justify possession unless the defendant had armed himself as a “spontaneous” response to repel an immediate and compelling danger – anticipatory self-defense did not qualify."
After months the NJ Supreme Court Of Appeal overturned the original and appealed convictions. Phew! Justice at last.