In a criminal case, the prosecution must prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a fundamental tenet of our criminal justice system, and it provides critical protection against the injustice of an unjustified conviction.
However, this is not the only protection afforded to criminal defendants. The U.S. Constitution provides numerous other protections as well, and many of these protections can prevent defendants from being lawfully convicted even in cases where the prosecution has met its burden of proof. The availability of these protections is among the primary reasons why anyone facing criminal charges should seek legal representation, and why anyone who has been convicted should promptly assess their grounds for appeal.
Constitutional Protections for Criminal Defendants in New Jersey
When facing an arrest or criminal charges in New Jersey, the following are among the most-important Constitutional protections that apply:
1. Protection Against Unreasonable Searches and Seizures
The police cannot stop you without reasonable suspicion, and they cannot search or arrest you without probable cause.
2. Protection Against Self-Incrimination
The police cannot force you to say anything that could be used against you in court. This is the protection that establishes your right to remain silent; and, in the landmark case of Miranda v. Arizona, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the police must inform you of your right to remain silent at the time of your arrest.
3. Protection Against Surprise Charges and Evidence
When facing prosecution, you have the right to be notified of all of the charges against you. Additionally, the law prohibits prosecutors from concealing evidence they intend to use at trial.
4. Protection Against Double Jeopardy
In the United States, you cannot be tried more than once for the same criminal offense. This applies in federal court and in the state courts throughout New Jersey.
5. Protection Against Ex Post Facto Laws
You can only be charged and sentenced under laws that existed at the time of your arrest. If the New Jersey legislature enacts a new law while your case is pending, the prosecution cannot use this law to retroactively seek charges or additional penalties.
6. Protection Against Cruel and Unusual Punishment
The Constitution’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment protects criminal defendants against penalties that are disproportionate to the offense for which they are convicted. If you receive an unconstitutional sentence, you can seek to have your sentence overturned through an appeal or a petition for post-conviction relief.
7. Protection Against an Unfair Trial
Perhaps the most basic Constitutional protection in criminal cases is the right to a fair trial. This includes the right to be represented by an attorney, the right to call and confront witnesses, and the right to have your case heard by an impartial jury.
Speak with a Criminal Defense Attorney in Confidence
If you are facing criminal charges or were recently convicted of a crime in New Jersey, our attorneys can help you protect your fundamental rights. To learn more in a confidential initial consultation, please call 1-877-435-6371 or request to speak with an attorney online today.