JACKSON — After a man reportedly hit a woman in the face and she responded by stabbing him with a butcher knife, both are facing criminal charges.

The 34-year-old female was being held in Ocean County Jail on a second-degree count of aggravated assault and additional weapons charges.

The 35-year-old man, meanwhile, was released on a summons after being charged with third-degree aggravated assault.

Township police have faced online criticism and questions about why the woman was arrested.

The answer may be that state law requires a person in a self-defense situation to act out of "reasonable belief" of immediately justified force.

According to police, the stabbing did not happen immediately after the initial fight on Sunday. The fight began in a bedroom of the Alissa Terrace home before the woman went to the kitchen, police said.

The man did not follow her but instead stayed in the bedroom, where she re-entered with a knife and stabbed him, police said.

Officers responded after a 911 hang-up call and found the woman holding two knives, which she dropped after being ordered to do so by police.

Both were treated for non-life-threatening injuries and later released.

Under New Jersey law, the following must apply in order to count as self-defense:

— A person must reasonably believe they must use force.

— A person must reasonably believe the force is immediately necessary.

— A person reasonably believes they are using force to defend himself/herself against unlawful force.

— A person reasonably believes the level of intensity of the force they use is proportionate to the unlawful force they are defending against.

“The key here is reasonableness. A person can only use the amount or degree of force he/she reasonably believes is necessary to protect himself/herself against harm,” according to attorney Christopher Grammicioni, a former federal and county prosecutor.

“The defense can only apply if these elements are met," he said. "But it is also important to note that it is the [prosecutor] who has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt these elements for self-defense were not satisfied – thus the self-defense justification would fail.”

One of the individuals involved lives at the residence, while the other was identified as a resident of Philadelphia, Jackson Police Capt. Steve Laskiewicz said in response to New Jersey 101.5.

“Officers have responded to the residence multiple times for other calls for service but not for disputes,” Laskiewicz said, when asked if the address had a history of police calls.

Erin Vogt is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach her at erin.vogt@townsquaremedia.com

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