Stopping a car thief will send you to prison in NJ (Opinion)
It's a shame what's happening to 37 year old Omar Smadiya. After a series of car break-ins on his street in Garfield, he caught a 19 year old male on his property rummaging through his Toyota Corolla parked in the driveway.
In a moment that would change his life, police say he grabbed a Glock 19 Gen 4 handgun and confronted the burglar. He fired three times, one of those rounds striking the guy, Christopher Manon-Velez, in the back. Police say the bullet exited his chest as he ran away. He reportedly made it to a McDonald's several blocks away where employees called first responders.
Manon-Velez was served with a summons and released pending appearance.
Smadiya? He remains in jail, charged now with attempted murder.
Even when he says he feared for his family's safety, it won't matter. Under New Jersey's self-defense laws, using lethal force on someone in defense of only property won't fly. Not with something like an automobile even when parked in your own driveway. To use deadly force the shooter would have to convince a jury that equal force was about to be used on him. New Jersey's 'duty to retreat' law says even in your own home, the only time you can use force against an intruder is if the intruder is threatening or using illegal force on you or you have every reason to believe they will. Even they, you can only use enough force to stop your attacker's illegal force. If someone comes at you with fists, you're not supposed to use a knife if you are his physical equal.
Are you kidding me?
New Jersey is among the most restrictive states when it comes to gun law. Our self-defense laws are awful, basically requiring you to be a coward even inside your own home. I wish Omar Smadiya had made a different decision, not because of any sympathy for Christopher Manon-Velez. Because he might do serious time in prison for doing what was legally wrong but morally right. Morally speaking, this thief got exactly what he deserved.
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