Common New Jersey Legal Standards of Proof Applied in Criminal Law

What are the most common New Jersey legal standards encountered in criminal cases?

1. Reasonable Suspicion - lowest of all standards available in criminal law which basically empowers police to effectuate a motor vehicle stop if they have a reasonable suspicion that a violation has been committed.

2. Probable Cause - empowers police to effectuate a search and seizure of a suspect and his or her property such as a motor vehicle - provided certain exceptions to the warrant requirement are met - and arrest an individual if they have well grounded suspicion that the individual committed a crime.

For example, if a driver failed a field sobriety test it would give rise to probable cause to arrest the individual for drunk driving.

3. Beyond Reasonable Doubt - To procure a conviction of an offense the state must prove each element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt.

First, the state must prove the conduct, attendant circumstances or result of conduct.

Second, the state must prove the required degree of blame or mental state of the offender.

Third, the state must negate any excuse or justification.

Fourth, the state must negate any defense such as the Statute of limitations.

Fifth, the state must establish jurisdiction and venue.

Unless each of the five elements is proved beyond a reasonable doubt by the state, the defendant is assumed innocent.

Beyond reasonable doubt is defined as more than a mere preponderance of the evidence, yet not necessarily an absolute certainty.

Generally, the State must prove who committed the offense and whether he or she intended to commit it.

The State must also prove each element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt.

What is the New Jersey legal standard for a summons or an arrest?

A summons is written invitation for to appear in Court while an arrest necessarily means that the individual was incarcerated prior to being issued a complaint and released on bail or on his or her own recognizance.

The most common summonses issued by law enforcement are for motor vehicle offenses such as speeding.

A mere traffic violation committed in the presence of a police officer with no imminent threat to public safety is an insufficient reason for an arrest because here a summons would suffice.

Even a disorderly persons violation or municipal ordinance infraction does not rise to a level of offense that warrants an arrest unless there is a breach of the peace.

Littering, for example, does not breach the peace and although it is a disorderly persons offense the offender is not subject to an arrest but rather a summons only.

If, however, an individual fails to respond to a summons then an arrest warrant will be issued.

What kind of evidence New Jersey legal standard require the state to produce at trial?

The State usually employs eye witnesses to prove the identity of alleged culprits.

As eye witnesses tend to be unreliable, defense attorney questions the witness's degree of attention, opportunity to view the alleged criminal, accuracy of prior descriptions of the alleged perpetrator, level of certainty and time between the crime and when they allegedly saw the defendant.

Are wiretaps legal?

Yes, if they are authorized by the Court.

To authorize wiretaps courts look for the following:

1. identification of the target;

2. identification of the offense;

3. identification of the anticipated communication;

4. time period of the intercept;

5. failure of traditional investigative techniques.

If you have any questions for a New Jersey criminal defense lawyer about New Jersey legal standards, please do not hesitate to contact us.