Criminal Defense Overview

New Jersey Criminal Defense Lawyer

East Brunswick criminal defense attorney Leon Matchin has over 10 years of experience representing criminal defendants in the Municipal and Superior Courts of Middlesex, Monmouth, and Mercer Counties, as well as in other surrounding communities. Mr. Matchin believes that every person is entitled to effective advocacy when facing harsh penalties, savvy law enforcement, and aggressive prosecutors. He is dedicated to defending your rights and giving your case the individualized attention it deserves.

Criminal Law and Enforcement

New Jersey’s criminal laws are codified in New Jersey Statutes, Title 2C (N.J.S.C.2C). Under Section 2C:1-13, no person may be convicted of a crime unless each element of the offense is proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Otherwise, the defendant’s innocence is assumed. The prosecution has the burden of proving facts and evidence meeting this standard before the court or jury. Defendants, however, must cast sufficient doubt on the prosecution’s version of events to maintain their innocence, using the same evidence and through cross-examination of witnesses.

Proof of Legal Elements

Crimes are usually defined by their legal “elements.” These are the requirements necessary to prove a crime. The defendant may not be convicted unless the facts and circumstances establish that each element has been met. The prosecution, for example, must prove that the defendant’s actions wholly satisfy the crime’s definition. Basic elements of three crimes are outlined below:

  • Assault (N.J.S.2C:12-1)
    • Intentional or reckless attempt to cause bodily injury;
    • Negligent attempt to cause injury using a deadly weapon; or
    • “Physically menacing” attempt to cause fear of imminent harm
  • Shoplifting (N.J.S.2C:20-11)
    • Taking possession, carrying away, or transferring merchandise
    • Intent to deprive merchant of benefit or use without paying full retail value
  • Drug offenses (N.J.S.2C:35-5)
    • Knowing or purposeful possession of controlled dangerous substance
    • Intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense controlled dangerous substance

These crimes may also have “aggravating” circumstances that alter the “degree” of the crime, resulting in “enhanced” sentences. Pursuant to N.J.S2C:17-1, a “simple” assault becomes “aggravated” if a person causes bodily harm by knowingly starting a fire or explosion. Shoplifting is “graded” according to the stolen retail value: $75,000 or more elevates the crime to a second-degree offense. Drug crimes depend upon the quantity and type of substance. Possession of 25 pounds or more of marijuana is a first-degree offense; less than one ounce is a fourth-degree offense.

Affirmative Defenses and Constitutional Protections

Affirmative defenses are those that would excuse or alleviate the conduct forming the basis of the alleged crime. These defenses may reduce the grade and degree of the offense, negate culpability, or exonerate the defendant. Examples of affirmative defenses include: insanity, mental disease or defect; ignorance or mistake of fact or law; consent, duress, entrapment, or necessity; and self-defense, protection, or safety of others.

Constitutional law also protects criminal defendants from infringement of their civil liberties. Violation of these rights may result in the exclusion of incriminating statements and any other evidence derived such a breach. Evidence of a crime may be excluded if obtained through:

  • Illegal search or seizure
  • Break in “chain of custody”
  • Coercive police interrogation
  • Failure to read Miranda rights
  • Failure to respect invoked rights

The laws of evidence and constitutional protections can exclude certain forms of proof, making it impossible for the prosecution to prove its case. Without these critical pieces, the case must be dismissed. The absence of key testimony can also cast doubt on the case in chief.

Building a Successful Defense

If you have been charged with a criminal offense, New Brunswick criminal defense lawyer Leon Matchin can help. He has been instrumental in compelling the prosecution to drop or dismiss numerous charges and obtaining relief for his clients. Mr. Matchin is committed to protecting your rights and safeguarding your future. Call (732) 887-2479 today for a free consultation or contact us online.