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What You Need to Know if You’ve Been Charged with Murder in New Jersey

May 10, 2023 | Posted In Criminal Law

It goes without saying that facing a murder charge is an extremely serious matter. Depending on the facts of your case, you could be facing anywhere from five years to life, and if you are eligible for release, having a murder conviction on your record will impact all aspects of your life once you get out of prison. From this point forward, you need to do everything you can to protect yourself, and this starts with hiring a New Jersey murder lawyer to represent you.

10 Important Facts to Know When Facing a Murder Charge in New Jersey

Regardless of the facts of your case, you have defenses available. But the prosecutor’s office will be working hard to convict you, and defending yourself won’t be easy. With this in mind, here are 10 important facts to know when facing a murder charge in New Jersey:

1. There Are Several Potential Defenses to Murder Charges in New Jersey

When you hire a lawyer to represent you, your lawyer will meticulously examine the facts of your case to determine what defenses you have available. While there are several potential defenses to murder charges in New Jersey, the defenses you have available depend on the facts of your case. Your lawyer will be able to determine the likelihood of successfully asserting defenses such as:

  • Alibi
  • Lack of evidence of guilt
  • Self-defense
  • Violation of your constitutional rights
  • You did not “purposely” or “knowingly” cause the death of another

2. Not All Murder Charges Carry the Same Penalties

The penalties that you are facing also depend on the facts of your case. For example, while murder is typically a first-degree indictable offense that carries 30 years to life, it can be reduced to a second-degree indictable offense in cases involving passion or provocation. In these cases, the charge is technically manslaughter rather than murder, and the statutory prison term ranges from 5 to 10 years.

3. Negotiating a Plea Deal Can Help You Avoid Uncertainty and Unnecessary Penalties

Depending on the facts of your case, your lawyer may recommend that you focus your defense on securing a plea deal. While this means pleading guilty to a crime (though not necessarily murder) and accepting the consequences, it avoids the inherent uncertainty of trial. If it appears likely that a jury would impose a harsh sentence, negotiating a plea deal could be your best option.

4. Negotiating a Plea Deal Isn’t Necessarily Your Best Option

But, while negotiating a plea deal could be your best option, this isn’t necessarily the case. To secure a conviction, prosecutors must be able to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a high burden, and prosecutors must be able to meet this burden with respect to each “element” of the statutory crime of murder. If your lawyer can poke holes in the prosecution’s case or keep the prosecution’s evidence out of court, you may be able to avoid a conviction entirely.

5. Police and Prosecutorial Mistakes Can Provide Defenses in Court

As we mentioned above, violations of your constitutional rights can provide a defense to murder in some cases. This is true even if you took the steps necessary to commit the offense. For example, all of the following are examples of police and prosecutorial mistakes that can provide defenses in court:

  • Stopping you without reasonable suspicion
  • Arresting you without probable cause
  • Conducting an invalid warrantless search
  • Obtaining an invalid search warrant
  • Withholding exculpatory evidence prior to trial

By conducting discovery, filing motions and taking other necessary legal steps, your lawyer can determine if you have any of these defenses available. If you do, this could potentially lead to a swift and favorable resolution of your case.

6. Murder Cases Are Often Exceedingly Complex

While there are various ways to fight a murder charge in New Jersey, it is important to understand that murder cases are often exceedingly complex. Avoiding a guilty verdict is not easy regardless of the facts involved. Building an effective defense strategy takes time, and you will need to work closely with your lawyer to ensure that you present the strongest defense possible.

7. Your New Jersey Murder Lawyer May Be Able to Present Several Forms of Evidence in Court

Depending on the defenses you have available, your lawyer may be able to present several forms of evidence in court. This includes everything from phone records and eyewitness testimony to forensic reports and expert analysis. As a result, even if the cards seem stacked against you, you should not make any decisions about your case until you speak with a lawyer.

8. It Is Up to You Whether to Testify (Based on Your Lawyer’s Advice)

When you are on trial for murder in New Jersey, the prosecution cannot force you to testify. Oftentimes, it will make sense not to testify—even if you are innocent of the charges against you. But testifying can also have advantages, and your lawyer can help you decide whether it is in your best interests to take the stand.

9. There Are No Guarantees Either Way

If your murder case goes to trial, there are no guarantees either way. Even if you committed murder, this does not necessarily mean prosecutors will be able to convict you.  Likewise, even if you are innocent, you could get wrongfully convicted. Hiring an experienced New Jersey murder lawyer will give you the best chance to achieve a favorable result, and the sooner you hire a lawyer, the better.

10. Hiring a Lawyer Will Give You the Best Chance to Preserve Your Freedom

As we just discussed, hiring an experienced lawyer gives you the best chance to achieve a favorable result. In a murder case, this means preserving your freedom and walking out of court without a conviction.

Discuss Your Case with a New Jersey Murder Lawyer in Confidence

To find out what an experienced lawyer can do to fight your murder charge, schedule a confidential initial consultation at Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A. Call 877-435-6371 or tell us how we can contact you to speak with a New Jersey murder lawyer as soon as possible.

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