Pepper Spray Laws – New Jersey

As one would likely expect from a ranking nanny state like New Jersey, defense sprays are fairly heavily regulated, and New Jersey adopts a downright punitive stance toward civilian use and ownership of them.

flag of New Jersey
flag of New Jersey

Though any kind of chemical composition is allowable, civilians may only possess and carry puny canisters with a payload measuring no more than three-quarters of an ounce. Such a tiny supply is likely to be expended quickly in any defensive encounter, and Heaven help you if you are facing multiple attackers, miss, or if your assailant just requires more than one dose to achieve effect.

New Jersey’s laws are consistent, however- consistently long, wordy and confusingly written just like the rest of their statutes!

We have attempted to spare you some agony in case you are considering carrying pepper spray in New Jersey and have provided you with the most salient information below.

We have also included the most relevant state laws at the very end of this article, though you must know that many more governing the use of defensive sprays are on the books, and it is your responsibility to read and understand them.

Fast Facts

  • Self-defense sprays are categorized as weapons in New Jersey.
  • New Jersey has no prohibition on the formulation of a defense spray so long as it is not intended to produce permanent injury or incapacitation.
  • Any self-defense spray may legally contain no more than ¾ oz. of agent.
  • Felons and other restricted persons may not possess self-defense sprays in New Jersey.


New Jersey’s laws governing the use and ownership of self-defense sprays are a decidedly mixed bag. The good news begins and ends with the fact that you may carry any type of agent you want so long as it is not designed to induce permanent injury or incapacitation. CN, CS and OC sprays are all okay, as are any blades.

The bad news, however, is that civilians may only carry a canister with a capacity of no more than 3/4 of an ounce of solution. This obviously presents quite a problem should you miss, be facing down multiple attackers, or just need to give your assailant a good soaking in order for him to get the message.

A few seconds of spray at most is all that will be produced by any canister carrying such a piddling amount.

Is also worth mentioning that New Jersey classifies all self-defense sprays decisively as weapons, and that means that any law that regulates weapons- where you may carry them, under what circumstances you may possess them and when you are justified in using them in defense- applies to these devices.

It goes without saying for most of us that New Jersey is not a pro self-defense, state and is generally not permissive when it comes to most other types of weapons in civilian hands. Caveat emptor and proceed with caution!

Finally, anyone who is prohibited from owning weapons for any reason may not possess a self-defense spray in the state of New Jersey. There are all kinds of things that the state considers disqualifiers, including domestic violence accusations and various criminal records, including certain misdemeanors.


New Jersey is a very tough state to get along with for those who are serious about self-defense, and that includes those who desire self-defense sprays. Though you may legally carry any kind of formulation you prefer or have access to, you may only choose a container with a scrawny 3/4 oz. payload, and no more.

Relevant State Statutes

2C:39-1 Definitions.

The following definitions apply to this chapter and to chapter 58:

r. “Weapon” means anything readily capable of lethal use or of inflicting serious bodily injury. The term includes, but is not limited to, all (1) firearms, even though not loaded or lacking a clip or other component to render them immediately operable; (2) components which can be readily assembled into a weapon; (3) gravity knives, switchblade knives, daggers, dirks, stilettos, or other dangerous knives, billies, blackjacks, bludgeons, metal knuckles, sandclubs, slingshots, cesti or similar leather bands studded with metal filings or razor blades imbedded in wood; and

(4) stun guns; and any weapon or other device which projects, releases, or emits tear gas or any other substance intended to produce temporary physical discomfort or permanent injury through being vaporized or otherwise dispensed in the air.

s. “Wholesale dealer” means any person, except a manufacturer, who sells, transfers, or assigns firearms, or parts of firearms, to persons who are reasonably understood not to be the ultimate consumers, and includes persons who receive finished parts of firearms and assemble them into completed or partially completed firearms, in furtherance of such purpose, except that it shall not include those persons dealing exclusively in grips, stocks and other nonmetal parts of firearms.

t. “Stun gun” means any weapon or other device which emits an electrical charge or current intended to temporarily or permanently disable a person.

2C:39-6 Exemptions.

2C:39-6. a. Provided a person complies with the requirements of subsection j. of this section, N.J.S.2C:39-5 does not apply to:

h. Nothing in subsection d. of N.J.S.2C:39-5 shall be construed to prevent any employee of a public utility, as defined in R.S.48:2-13, doing business in this State or any United States Postal Service employee, while in the actual performance of duties which specifically require regular and frequent visits to private premises, from possessing, carrying or using any device which projects, releases or emits any substance specified as being noninjurious to canines or other animals by the Commissioner of Health and which immobilizes only on a temporary basis and produces only temporary physical discomfort through being vaporized or otherwise dispensed in the air for the sole purpose of repelling canine or other animal attacks.

The device shall be used solely to repel only those canine or other animal attacks when the canines or other animals are not restrained in a fashion sufficient to allow the employee to properly perform the employee’s duties.

Any device used pursuant to this act shall be selected from a list of products, which consist of active and inert ingredients, permitted by the Commissioner of Health.

i. (1) Nothing in N.J.S.2C:39-5 shall be construed to prevent any person who is 18 years of age or older and who has not been convicted of a crime, from possession for the purpose of personal self-defense of one pocket-sized device which contains and releases not more than three-quarters of an ounce of chemical substance not ordinarily capable of lethal use or of inflicting serious bodily injury, but rather, is intended to produce temporary physical discomfort or disability through being vaporized or otherwise dispensed in the air. Any person in possession of any device in violation of this subsection shall be deemed and adjudged to be a disorderly person, and upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by a fine of not less than $100.

(2) Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph (1) of this subsection, nothing in N.J.S.2C:39-5 shall be construed to prevent a health inspector or investigator operating pursuant to the provisions of section 7 of P.L.1977, c.443 (C.26:3A2-25) or a building inspector from possessing a device which is capable of releasing more than three-quarters of an ounce of a chemical substance, as described in paragraph (1) of this subsection, while in the actual performance of the inspector’s or investigator’s duties, provided that the device does not exceed the size of those used by law enforcement.

2C:39-7 Certain persons not to have weapons or ammunition.

(2) A person having been convicted in this State or elsewhere of a disorderly persons offense involving domestic violence, whether or not armed with or having in the person’s possession a weapon enumerated in subsection r. of N.J.S.2C:39-1, who purchases, owns, possesses or controls a firearm or ammunition is guilty of a crime of the third degree.

c. Whenever any person shall have been convicted in another state, territory, commonwealth or other jurisdiction of the United States, or any country in the world, in a court of competent jurisdiction, of a crime, or an attempt or conspiracy to commit a crime, which in the other jurisdiction or country is comparable to one of the crimes enumerated in subsection a. or b. of this section, then that person shall be subject to the provisions of this section.

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