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Three Types of Defenses to Criminal Charges in New Jersey

March 16, 2018 | Posted In Criminal Law

When facing the prospect of fines, jail time, lengthy probation and various other penalties, you need to do everything possible to avoid a conviction. This means exploring all potential defenses and assembling a cohesive defense strategy that addresses all of the unique legal and factual issues involved in your case.

There are numerous potential defenses to criminal culpability in New Jersey, and most of these defenses can be placed into three broad categories. As you begin to gather information in preparation for meeting with your New Jersey criminal lawyer, you may find it helpful to think in terms of the types of defenses listed below.

Possible Defense Strategies in New Jersey Criminal Cases

1. Failure to Meet the Burden of Proof

The first type of defense involves challenging the prosecution’s evidence of guilt. In a criminal case, the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If the prosecutor’s office cannot meet this burden, you do not deserve to be convicted.

Most criminal offenses require proof of multiple “elements.” These typically include specific acts (such as entering a structure or possessing a controlled substance), as well as a specific mental state (such as acting purposefully or recklessly). Attacking even a single element of the prosecution’s case can be enough to avoid sentencing. Can you show that evidence of a particular element is lacking? If so, your attorney may be able to help you avoid conviction by demonstrating that the government has failed to meet its burden of proof.

2. Affirmative Defenses

If you took all of the steps necessary to commit a crime but you had justification for doing so, you may be able to avoid conviction by asserting an affirmative defense. Examples of affirmative defenses under New Jersey law include:

  • Self-defense
  • Defense of others
  • Non-voluntary intoxication
  • Diminished capacity
  • Insanity
  • Duress
  • Necessity

These are referred to as “affirmative” defenses because the defendant has the burden of actually proving that the defense applies rather than showing that the prosecution has failed to meet its burden of proof. If the prosecutor’s office appears to have clear evidence of each element of the alleged offense, your best option may be to assert an affirmative defense.

3. Constitutional Defenses

Similar to affirmative defenses, Constitutional defenses can protect criminal defendants from conviction even when they have performed all of the acts necessary to the commission of a crime. Some of the most commonly-used Constitutional defenses in criminal cases include:

  • Violation of the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures;
  • Violation of the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination;
  • Violation of the Fifth Amendment protection against double jeopardy; and,
  • Violation of the Sixth Amendment right to a fair and speedy public trial.

Learn more: Constitutional Protections for Criminal Defendants in New Jersey.

Speak With a New Jersey Criminal Lawyer About Your Case

If you are facing criminal charges in New Jersey, our team of experienced criminal defense lawyers can help you avoid unnecessary consequences. To get started with a confidential case assessment, please call (877) 435-6371 or request an appointment online today.

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