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Types of Criminal Defenses


Fight for Your Rights with an Experienced New Jersey Defense Attorney

There are many potential defenses to criminal charges in New Jersey. At Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A., our New Jersey defense lawyers rely on centuries of combined legal experience to develop comprehensive strategies for protecting our clients. While every case is unique, some of the defenses we most commonly use to defend our clients include:

Abandonment or Withdrawal

While it is possible to be convicted of attempt or conspiracy even if you did not “successfully” commit a crime in New Jersey, in some cases it is also possible to assert the defense of abandonment or withdrawal. In order to assert this defense, you must be able to prove that you took affirmative steps to extricate yourself from a criminal plot before the crime was committed, and that either (i) you did not actually aid in the commission of the crime, or (ii) you notified the police as soon as possible in order to try to prevent the crime from being committed.


This defense means that the defendant could not have committed the crime because he/she was somewhere else. Your New Jersey defense attorney must submit to the state a notice of the alibi and an affidavit of the defendant asserting the alibi. There are dangers in presenting this type of defense. An experienced attorney will be very careful and investigate this defense. An experienced attorney will interview the people involved, frequently with an investigator, to see if this defense will work -- or whether it will backfire against the defense.

Self defense or defense of others

Often, a person charged with assault is involved in a fight or was defending his home or property against another individual. A person has the right to use reasonable force to protect himself or someone else. For example, if another person assaults you, you can fight back.

Reasonable force is what a reasonable person would use to defend against that type of attack. For example, if a person pushes you, reasonable force would include pushing and possibly hitting him/her. It would not be okay to stab the person who hits you and has no weapon. You have the right to protect your home from a trespasser. You may not shoot him except in limited circumstances. But you have the right to threaten to shoot him to scare him into leaving your home.

A person can not use force to resist an arrest. If a police officer tells a person that they are under arrest, even if the police have the wrong person, or are acting without a proper basis, the individual must submit to arrest. Failing to submit subjects that person to being charged and convicted of resisting arrest. A person may resist if the police use unlawful force against him. For example, if the police started beating the person under arrest, that person would have the right to resist. If a person asserts the defense of self-defense or defense of others, they submit evidence of that justified use of force (a prima facie case). Then the state must prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that the defense was not justified.

Mistake of Law or Fact

In certain circumstances, a mistake of law or fact can excuse what would otherwise constitute criminal conduct. While the grounds for asserting a mistake of law are limited (it is not an excuse that you simply misunderstood, or were unaware of, the law), a mistake-of-fact defense can be successful if you mistakenly believed your conduct was lawful. For example, if you were charged with stealing property that you thought you had permission to borrow, this mistake of fact may negate the intent required for criminal culpability.

Burden of Proof

In criminal cases, the prosecution always has the burden of proof. This means that if the prosecution cannot prove your guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt,” then you do not deserve to be convicted in court. A New Jersey defense attorney from our firm can show that the prosecution has not met its burden of proof, then it does not matter whether or not you committed the crime (or crimes) alleged.

Diminished Capacity or Insanity

This defense is a claim that the defendant was under some mental incapacity to either be guilty of what he was charged or to mitigate the damage. It is extremely rare for an insanity defense to work. This is because the legal and medical definition of insanity are not the same. Legally, a person must not know that what they were doing was wrong.

For example, imagine an individual who is mentally ill and or not taking their medication. This person believes that they spoke to God, and that God told them to attack another person because that person was the devil. This may sound “crazy,” but this person may not have an insanity defense if he/she knew at the time that, although God told them to do it, that it was legally or morally wrong. On the other hand, imagine an individual who hits someone with a bat because they thought that they were hitting a baseball. This person would have a valid insanity defense, subject to evaluation by the state’s psychiatrist.

Statute of Limitations 

Under New Jersey law, the prosecution of many criminal offenses is subject to a statute of limitations. If the statute of limitations for your alleged crime has expired, then you cannot lawfully face prosecution.

Unconstitutional Search, Seizure or Interrogation

Police searches, seizures and custodial interrogations are subject to the protections afforded under the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. If the police conducted a search, seized evidence or interrogated you in violation of your constitutional rights, then any evidence obtained as a result of the violation should be deemed inadmissible in court.

Other Constitutional Violations

The U.S. Constitution provides many other fundamental rights to criminal defendants in New Jersey as well. Depending upon the circumstances of your case, our attorneys may be able to use protections ranging from the prohibition against double jeopardy to the right to a speedy trial to protect you against unjust prosecution.

Discuss Your Case with a New Jersey Defense Attorney in Confidence

If you have been charged with a crime in New Jersey, we encourage you to contact us promptly to discuss your case. To find out what defenses you have available, call us at 1-877-435-6371 or contact us online to schedule a confidential initial consultation with one of our experienced defense lawyers.


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