Self-Defense and Endangering an Injured Victim (Part 4)

by | Jul 13, 2021 | Blog, Criminal Law, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

The concurring opinion continued in relevant part: As a second illustration, imagine that C, a stranger, suddenly accosts D on a sidewalk at night, brandishes a knife and pulls D into a dark alleyway, and begins to sexually assault D. D grabs the knife away from C and plunges it into C’s neck. C staggers to the pavement and utters, “I’m gonna get you for this!” Traumatized, D runs away for safety. Assume that D reasonably does not report the episode to the police, in order to maintain anonymity. D’s conduct is arguably a logical follow-through of the reasonable use of force to repel an attacker in self-defense. Even if C may appear to be mortally wounded, D may be justified in not remaining at the scene or summoning medical treatment under a reasonable belief that such a call somehow might be traced to D’s cell phone and deprive D of anonymity.

Neither of these hypothetical situations are comparable to the facts of this case that are detailed in the majority opinion and soundly analyzed. Nor, apart from the literal wording of N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1.2, does it appear that the Legislature would want persons such as B and D punished as criminals for not calling 9-1-1.

These scenarios illustrate that we should be cautious in adopting an over-expansive reading of N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1.2. Although the statute is aimed at laudable humanitarian objectives, it must be construed and applied sensibly within the broad context of general principles of legal responsibility and criminal justice.

This concurring opinion gives the case a greater chance of being reviewed by the New Jersey Supreme Court. Whether or not the Supreme Court reviews it, the concurrence will be cited by defendants’ attorneys in similar cases. A strong point to be made for the defense is that the very title of the statute at issue tends to limit the scope of criminal liability. The statute is captioned “Endangerment of an Injured Victim” (emphasis added). An aggressor who is wounded by another using self-defense is not a “victim.”