Pepper spray and mace are tools used to incapacitate would-be attackers. Both are chemical substances that are emitted as a spray or vapor to induce severe irritation. Depending on the type of product you use, the effects can be quite serious and painful. New Jersey has several laws regarding how and when mace or pepper spray can be carried.
In general, there are very few restrictions on pepper spray or mace in New Jersey. While they are legally classified as weapons, they are legal to carry as long as you are at least 18 years old and have a clean criminal record. Failure to abide by certain restrictions may lead to criminal charges. In addition, using mace or pepper spray in the commission of a crime may be treated similarly to using a dangerous weapon.
If you have been charged with a criminal offense related to mace or pepper spray, you may have legal options for your defense. Our Atlantic City criminal defense lawyers can advise you on what to do next. Call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956 to get started with a free case review.
Is It Legal to Carry Mace or Pepper Spray in New Jersey?
Pepper spray and mace are not illegal in the State of New Jersey. While these substances are certainly dangerous, they are not classified in the same way as firearms. Therefore, there are no significant legal requirements to satisfy before purchasing pepper spray or mace. In general, as long as you are at least 18 and not otherwise restricted from having a weapon, you can purchase, possess, and carry pepper spray and mace.
Although mace is not a firearm, it is considered a weapon under N.J.S.A. § 2C:39-1(r). According to the statute, a “weapon” may include devices that emit or release tear gas or other substances meant to cause physical pain, discomfort, or injury. This definition certainly would encompass pepper spray and mace. Our New Jersey pepper spray and mace lawyers can help you figure out if your self-defense tools are legal to carry.
As a weapon, the law under N.J.S.A. §2C:39-5 would make carrying pepper spray or mace illegal. However, the law carves out an exception for these products under N.J.S.A. § 2C:39-6-(i). The exception states that people at least 18 years of age with no criminal history may carry pepper spray or mace so long as it is pocket-sized and no more than .75 oz. Additionally, pepper spray and mace are only legal if they are incapable of fatal harm and the effects are only temporary.
Criminal Penalties in New Jersey for the Unlawful Possession of Mace or Pepper Spray
Ordinarily, the possession of certain weapons would be a crime in New Jersey, including mace and pepper spray. However, as stated above, an exception is made for adults with no criminal history who carry no more than .75 oz of pepper spray or mace. Even so, there may be other circumstances in which criminal charges related to pepper spray or mace may be assessed against you.
If you are carrying pepper spray or mace because you intend to use it for a crime, you can be charged with possessing a weapon for an unlawful purpose under N.J.S.A. § 2C:39-4. This law covers weapons of any kind, including firearms, explosives, and self-defense tools. If your charges concern pepper spray or mace, you might face charges for a third-degree crime.
You can also be criminally charged for using mace or pepper spray when committing other specific types of crimes. According to N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4.1, you may face second-degree crime charges for using pepper spray or mace, or any other non-firearm weapon, in the commission of certain drug crimes.
Under N.J.S.A. § 2C:39-7, some people are restricted from owning certain weapons or ammunition because of their criminal past, substance abuse, mental health, or numerous other reasons. If you are caught with pepper spray or mace – which are considered weapons in New Jersey – and you are restricted from having them, you may face charges for fourth-degree crimes.
Using Pepper Spray or Mace for Self-Defense in New Jersey
While it is legal to carry pepper spray or mace under certain restrictions, not every use of these tools is considered self-defense. People often have significant misconceptions about what self-defense really is. Self-defense is not a legal loophole to use any kind of force you want against someone else. Generally, the force used in self-defense must be proportional to the force being used against you. If using mace or pepper spray is disproportionate to the threat you were trying to thwart, you might still be in trouble.
For example, if someone corners you with a knife and threatens to hurt you if you do not comply with their demands, the use of pepper spray might be justified. The pepper spray or mace is arguably proportional to the threat posed by another dangerous weapon. However, suppose someone instead approached you and called you an offensive name. Using pepper spray, mace, or any other force might not be appropriate and could not be considered self-defense.
Along with all that, the perceived threat must be reasonable for self-defense to also be reasonable. If a person approaches you with a knife, it is reasonable to believe they intend to hurt you, so using pepper spray or mace would be an appropriate method of self-defense. On the other hand, if someone bumps into your shoulder in passing, it might be unreasonable to believe they are trying to assault you, so using pepper spray or mace would not be appropriate. If you are being criminally charged for actions you believe amount to self-defense, call out Atlantic City criminal defense lawyers now.
Call Our New Jersey Mace and Pepper Spray Attorneys
If you are facing legal trouble for possessing or purchasing pepper spray or mace, our team can assist. Call our Cape May criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych for a free case review. Our team can be reached at (609) 616-4956.