The New Jersey Supreme Court unanimously ruled this week in favor of a man who, fearing for his life, answered his front door carrying a machete, holding that in such an instance an individual may lawfully possess and hold a weapon for self-defense.
On March 24, 2012, Arturs Daleckis and his wife grew agitated at the noise emanating from the apartment directly above their own, occupied by Crisoforo Montalvo and his wife. Daleckis pounded on his ceiling, and Montalvo appeared at Daleckis’s front door shortly thereafter. Montalvo broke a table belonging to Daleckis, at which point Montalvo retreated back into his apartment.
Daleckis walked upstairs and, according to Montalvo and his wife, began kicking and slamming their front door. Fearing for his life and that of his wife and unborn child, Montalvo retrieved a machete he used for roofing and answered the door.
Daleckis claimed that Montalvo pointed the machete at him, and Montalvo testified that he kept it at his side. In any case, while Montalvo convinced Daleckis to leave his apartment without inflicting injury, he was still charged with “possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose” and “unlawful possession of a weapon.”
Montalvo was acquitted of the first charge but convicted of the second. The jury reached this verdict, in part, because the judge included a self-defense instruction for the unlawful-purpose charge but didn’t give it for the unlawful-possession charge. In other words, the judge’s instructions to the jury failed to acknowledge Montalvo’s Second Amendment right to possess a weapon in his home for self-defense.
The New Jersey Supreme Court condemned the judge’s faulty instructions and upheld Second Amendment rights on two fronts. First, the court explicitly rejected the “spontaneity” requirement, which permits arming oneself in the home only in the case of an imminent attack. Such a requirement allows firearms and other weapons to be kept in the home, but not held or used in a threatening manner unless the resident is actually under attack.
The court ruled against the “spontaneity” requirement, stating, “The right to possess a weapon in one’s own home for self-defense would be of little effect if one were required to keep the weapon out-of-hand, picking it up only ‘spontaneously.’ Such a rule would negate the purpose of possessing a weapon for defense of the home…”
Second, the New Jersey Supreme Court acknowledged the little-discussed 2A protection of knives and other sharp instruments.
According to the court, “The Second Amendment ‘guarantee[s] the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation,’ D.C. v. Heller (2008).” It extends to “all instruments that constitute bearable arms,” “including machetes, in the home for self-defense purposes.”
As to whether or not Montalvo was justified in threatening Daleckis with a machete, the court stated that an individual must have “lawful justification” for such a threat. In this instance, Montalvo’s actions would be justified if he had “a sincere or reasonable belief that the show of such force was necessary to protect himself or his wife from an imminent attack.”