By: Gabrielle Schwab
Homeowners who use force to defend their dwellings from intruders could soon potentially be pardoned from prosecution, thanks to a bill sponsored by New Jersey assemblyman Kevin J. Rooney.
Rooney, a Republican from Wyckoff, represents the 40th legislative district of New Jersey. Rooney decided to sponsor assembly bill A3069 upon its introduction on Feb. 8, 2018.
The bill titled the “New Jersey Right to Home Defense Law” suggests in lines 18 through 21 “The use of force or deadly force upon or toward an intruder is justified when the actor reasonably fears imminent peril of death or serious bodily harm to himself or another as a result of that intrusion into his home or residence.”
The New Jersey Right to Home Defense Law defines five circumstances where a person’s fear can be considered reasonable and therefore allot them protection. The bill does more than just grant immunity to those defending their homes.
The bill’s statement section states, “Under the bill, the court, is authorized to award reasonable attorney’s fees, court costs, compensation for loss of income and all expenses incurred by a defendant who is wrongly subject to a civil action.”
The current NJ defense law states that force is only appropriate after requesting intruders to leave is denied. The deadly force is still only permissible with reasonable fear for ones life. This new bill says “one is not obligated to retreat before defending oneself against attack, and that one may do so without fear of prosecution.”
While it has almost been a year since the initial proposal of the bill, there was a sponsorship update as of Sept. 28, 2018.
According to LegiScan, a legislative tracking service, the bill has gained partisan support from three other republican assemblymen. Assemblymen Edward H. Thomas (District 30) and Harold J. Wirths (District 24) are primary sponsors of the bill alongside Rooney, while assemblyman Parker Space is listed as a co-sponsor on the New Jersey Legislature website.
Despite the sponsorship, LegiScan stated that there has only been a 25% progression on the bill, meaning that defensive homeowners currently can still be prosecuted for using deadly force on home intruders.
“As an Assemblyman I am required to evaluate and vote on thousands of bills a year that impact the health, livelihoods and safety of millions of New Jersey residents,” Rooney writes on his New Jersey Assembly website.
Rooney was voted into his assemblyman position on Dec. 12, 2016. According to his profile on the NJGOP website, Rooney previously served as Wyckoff Township committeeman from 2010 to 2016, deputy mayor in 2010 and 2014 and mayor in 2011, 2015 and 2016.
This bill is the same as S539, a bill introduced Jan. 9, 2018. The sister bill is sponsored by Republican Senators Kristin Corrado, Anthony R. Bucco, and Steven Oroho.
Rooney, the 58-year-old assemblyman, has an office located in Wayne, N.J.