Most of us know: things aren't always what they seem. For some reason, though, police and prosecutors don't always keep this principle in mind as they should. Accidental injuries are a great case in point. We all experience our fair share of bumps and bruises—trips, falls, and stubbed toes. When your job is to be always on the lookout for wrongdoing, though, you sometimes start jumping at shadows. Maybe a red mark on an arm with a perfectly reasonable explanation turns into an accusation of domestic violence.
Accidental injury can be confused with a number of different crimes in New Jersey. It's often confused, for instance, with domestic violence. What do you need to know about the law and how to protect yourself from arrest and conviction?
Accidental Injury Vs. Domestic Violence
Domestic violence is unquestionably a crime in New Jersey and is punishable with jail or prison time. Even a misdemeanor disorderly person offense is punishable by up to 6 months in jail, while first-degree domestic violence can garner sentences of up to 20 years in prison. In fact, even before a case goes to trial, a person accused of DV can be issued a restraining order that can interfere with daily routines.
Accidental injury, on the other hand, is not a crime at all unless it involves a deadly weapon.
The question, then, is how you protect yourself if you wind up accused of domestic violence when what occurred is actually an accidental injury?
The law places the burden for proving domestic violence on the prosecution. Further, they must not only demonstrate that you did harm to a household member but that you did so with "intent" or through "negligence." Intent requires
- Purpose: You had in mind the goal of harming the person when you committed the action;
- Knowledge: You committed the act in question knowing it would cause harm;
- Recklessness: You committed the act with conscious disregard for the outcome.
If the injury you caused to someone in your family involved any one of these standards, you could be charged with and potentially convicted of domestic violence. Otherwise, however, what happened was a simple accidental injury for which you cannot be held criminally responsible.
Again, keep in mind that discharging a weapon without lawful purpose is considered "reckless" and treated as a fourth-degree felony, even if you otherwise had no intent to harm another person.
Joseph D. Lento, Defense Attorney
It would be nice if we never had to worry about the police and courts making mistakes—if they only arrested and convicted people who actually committed crimes and deserved to be punished. Unfortunately, things don't always work out like that. Officials make mistakes, and when they do, you often need an attorney to help sort everything out.
Because domestic violence is sometimes such a subjective crime, it's particularly given to mistakes. Doctors, teachers, and even the other parent can decide an injury looks "suspicious" and report it, even if it has an innocent explanation.
If you've been charged with assault or domestic violence because of an accidental injury to another person, contact Lento Law Firm Team today. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his Criminal Defense Team understands that accidents happen, and he doesn't believe you should be held criminally responsible for them. He's committed to helping clients prove their innocence and protect their names. For more information, contact Joseph D. Lento today. Call 888.535.3686 or use our automated response form.