Crimes may be broadly classified as either violent or non-violent. Crimes of violence such as assault, robbery, and murder are clearly among the most serious and potentially impose the most severe penalties. Since 1990, the rate of violent crime has actually declined. Most major cities in the country have seen dramatic decreases. Violent crime is suburban areas has also declined—but to a lesser extent.
New Jersey Attorney for Defending Violent Crimes
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has significant experience in defending allegations of violent crime. Courts are able to impose increasingly harsh sentences and other penalties on offenders in the interest of public safety. Those facing these types of charges are strongly advised to retain legal counsel that they know are familiar with this realm of legal practice.
Understanding Violent Criminal Acts
The FBI classifies violent crime in categories of murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery, and assault. The Uniform Crime Reporting Program defines these crimes like those involving force or a threat of force. For example, crimes like burglary or motor-vehicle theft are property-based and do not involve a victim being threatened or the use of force.
Crime Rates (per 1,000 people)
New Jersey Rate
Degrees of Crime and Burden of Proof
Offenses that may lead to a sentence of over six-months are considered first, second, third, or fourth-degree crimes. Defendants are considered as innocent until convicted. Criminal offenses must be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt”, a greater standard compared to “by the preponderance of the evidence” standard that applies to civil actions.
Potential Terms of Imprisonment for Crimes
- First-degree: A period of imprisonment of 10 to 20 years
- Second-degree: A period of imprisonment of five to 10 years
- Third-degree: A period of imprisonment of three to five years
- Fourth-degree: A period of imprisonment of fewer than 18 months
- Disorderly person offense: A period of imprisonment of less than six months
Those convicted of crimes of the first and second-degree are “presumed” to be sentenced to a period of imprisonment. This presumption may apply to third-degree convictions if related to organized crime, domestic violence, and auto theft under certain circumstances.
Types of Violent Crime
Murder is defined in 2C:11-3 as a criminal homicide where an individual purposely or knowingly causes harm that leads to death. Murder is a first-degree offense. Those convicted may be sentenced to enhanced terms of 30 years or a life term in prison.
Crimes of manslaughter involve individuals whose actions cause a death based on “extreme indifference” for human life. These acts of reckless behavior may include causing death while attempting to elude law enforcement. Manslaughter is generally a crime of the second-degree; however, when aggravating circumstances exist the offense escalates to a first-degree offense.
Simple assault involves an individual knowingly or recklessly causing bodily harm. A simple assault is a disorderly person offense but will escalate in severity under certain conditions. These include assaults where a deadly weapon is used, when directed at a member of law enforcement, and others.
The crime of sexual assault is essentially an act of rape. The 2C:14-2 statute defines it as a forceful sexual act against a victim or any sexual actions that an adult has with a minor. It is generally classified as a second-degree offense. The crimes escalate to a first-degree offense when there are aggravating circumstances. Examples include actions involving victims who are handicapped, those under the age of 13, involving a weapon, and more.
A robbery is an act of theft that involves the usage or threat of force. It is generally a crime of the second-degree. The crime may escalate to a first-degree crime when bodily injury is inflicted, a weapon is used, and other circumstances exist.
Acts of domestic violence can be described as assaults that involve other members of the household or those with a dating relationship. In recent years, cases of domestic violence have become more complex due to procedural requirements and sentencing conditions. One common condition of a conviction is a “no-contact” order or “restraining” order that restricts any intentional communication or contact. Courts also will generally impose that the offender completes a counseling program.
Over the last few decades, New Jersey has implemented longer sentences and minimum required sentences for many crimes. In 1982, roughly 11% of the state's 7,900 inmates were incarcerated with required minimum sentences. Currently, the state is housing approximately 20,000 offenders and 74% are serving mandatory minimum sentences.
An experienced criminal defense attorney may employ various types of defenses as part of the overall defense strategy. One strategy involves closely analyzing the course of events regarding the arrest. Often the arresting agency will inadvertently violate a suspect's rights or fail to adhere to the proper procedural requirements that relate to evidence.
A self-defense strategy acknowledges that violent action did occur. This defense asserts that the violence was responsive and involved self-defense. New Jersey statute justifies the use of force when someone believes it is necessary to protect them.
Resources for Victims of Violent Crime in New Jersey
OVC-funded Victim Assistance for New Jersey
Web Site: https://www.nj.gov/lps/dcj/victimwitness/
Residents of the state may be eligible for funds according to the Federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA). This was established in order to assist victims of crime. Some of the benefits may include funds for medical care, counseling, and wages lost.
Criminal Defense Attorney for Clients in New Jersey
Those who have been charged with a violent crime should consult with an attorney promptly. You will want to be sure that you have a lawyer to advise you in the preliminary phases of the case. The Lento Law Firm understands the importance of creating a defense strategy that is customized based on the details associated with your case. These efforts are often proactive and are based on a thorough understanding of New Jersey laws. We encourage you to contact the office today for a complimentary consultation at (888) 535-3686.