When you get approached or arrested by the police, it can be hard to make the right decisions in the moment. This is an extremely stressful situation for most people, and the police do not have to explain all of your legal rights. As a result, many people end up saying things that they should have kept to themselves.
So, what are your options if you confessed to committing a crime?
If you confessed to the police, it is critical to understand what this means—and doesn’t mean—for your criminal case. Even in this situation, you may still have a variety of defenses available. But, you will need to handle your case very carefully, and you will want to speak with an experienced New Jersey criminal lawyer as soon as possible.
What You Need to Know if You Confessed to Committing a Crime in New Jersey
Any time you are facing criminal charges in New Jersey, you need to make informed decisions with your long-term best interests in mind. Even if you made incriminating statements to the police, this doesn’t necessarily mean your case is over. To determine what options you have available, you will want to work with your New Jersey criminal lawyer to answer key questions such as:
1. Did You Actually Confess to Committing a Crime?
One of the first questions you need to answer is: Did you actually confess to committing a crime? New Jersey’s criminal laws are complicated, and even if you think you confessed to a crime, this might not actually be the case. All crimes consist of multiple “elements,” and prosecutors must be able to prove each element to secure a conviction. If your statement does not address all elements of the crime in question, then it doesn’t amount to a confession.
For example, let’s say you are facing an assault charge. At the scene, you told a police officer, “Yes, I hit him.” Now, let’s look at New Jersey’s assault statute. To secure a conviction prosecutors must be able to prove that you:
“Attempt[ed] to cause or purposely, knowingly or recklessly cause[d] bodily injury to another . . . .”
Did you admit to acting purposely, knowingly or recklessly? No. Did you admit to causing bodily injury? No. So, you didn’t confess. Prosecutors still have more to prove, and you may still be able to argue certain defenses such as self-defense, defense of others and involuntary intoxication as well.
Of course, even if your statement doesn’t amount to a full confession, it could still help the government prove its case. So, even in this scenario, you aren’t completely in the clear. But, before you make any decisions about how to approach your case, it is critical to make sure you have an accurate understanding of the impact of what you said.
2. What Charge (or Charges) Are You Facing?
If you are concerned that you may have confessed to a crime, it is also important to make sure you have a clear understanding of the charge (or charges) you are facing. For example, let’s say you got arrested after an altercation, and instead of just saying, “Yes, I hit him,” you said, “I was trying to hurt him.” This arguably comes closer to a confession to “simple” assault.
But, let’s say that instead of charging you with “simple” assault, prosecutors decide to try to obtain a conviction for aggravated assault. Under the aggravated assault statute, prosecutors must be able to prove that you:
“Attempt[ed] to cause serious bodily injury to another, or cause[d] injury purposely or knowingly or under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life recklessly cause[d] such injury . . . .”
If you were not attempting to cause “serious” bodily injury, then you are not guilty of aggravated assault (unless you actually caused an injury under the circumstances described in the statute). As a result, your statement alone should not be enough to justify a conviction based on the charge filed.
3. Under What Circumstances Did You Confess?
Now, let’s say you did actually confess to the crime with which you are being charged. Does this mean your case is over?
The short answer is “No.” Even in this scenario, there may still be ways that an experienced New Jersey criminal lawyer can protect you.
In this scenario, it will be important to determine whether the police violated your constitutional rights. For example, if they failed to read your Miranda rights before interrogating you in custody, then your confession in custody may be inadmissible in court. Under these circumstances, your confession may be considered involuntary—and this may give your New Jersey criminal lawyer grounds to file a motion to suppress.
Be sure to consider these questions: Was your statement the result of improper actions or statements by the police? Did it result from an illegal search or arrest? Did the police violate your Miranda rights even though they read them to you? Were the police permitted to question you in the first place? Did they get a statement from you before they Mirandized you and then take another Mirandized statement from you? Were you under the influence of drugs or alcohol when questioned? Were you in an accident or injured when questioned? If the answer is yes to any of these questions, your attorney may successfully argue that the statements should not be permitted to be used against you.
4. Will the Jury Find Your Statements Credible?
Another potential way to deal with a confession during a criminal trial in New Jersey is by arguing that it is not credible. This could be due to confusion, duress, intoxication or any of a variety of other factors. Under the New Jersey Rules of Evidence, if a judge admits a defendant’s confession into evidence, the judge must instruct the jury “to disregard the statement if it finds that it is not credible.”
5. Do You Qualify for Pre-Trial Intervention? Should You Consider a Plea?
Finally, along with evaluating potential defense strategies, it is important to evaluate your other options as well. For example, if you are a first-time offender, you may qualify for pre-trial intervention (PTI)—and this may allow you to avoid a conviction even if you made a credible confession that is admissible in court. If PTI isn’t an option, then you may also want to consider a plea deal. While accepting a plea deal still has consequences, the consequences can be far less than facing a conviction for a more serious crime.
Discuss Your Case with a New Jersey Criminal Lawyer in Confidence
Are you facing criminal charges in New Jersey, and do you have concerns about what you said to the police? If so, we encourage you to contact us for more information. To discuss your case with an experienced New Jersey criminal lawyer in confidence, please call 877-435-6371 or get in touch online today.