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The term “homicide” covers any death caused by a purposeful, knowing, reckless, or under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life. If the effort to kill another person is intentional, the criminal offense that results is murder. This is unquestionably one of the most serious offenses that an individual can face in New Jersey with penalties that include life behind bars. Your loved one certainly requires representation by an attorney with extensive trial experience if they want to have the greatest chance of avoiding a life of incarceration.

New Jersey Murder Charges

The murder statute is contained in section N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3 and outlines what is essentially two separate criminal charges:

  1. murder on the basis of purposeful or knowing conduct; and
  2. felony murder.
  3. Purposely or Knowingly Committing Murder In Violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:11-2a

Subsections (a)(1) and (a)(2) of 2C:11-3 cover murders where the actor either purposely or knowingly causes the death or they inflict serious bodily injury to another person and the resulting injuries result in their death. Three (3) distinct elements of proof are necessary to convict a defendant for murder.

  1. a death must have occurred
  2. death or serious injuries that lead to death must have been caused by the accused and
  3. the defendant’s actions must have been purposely or knowingly.

Murder was committed purposely if the accused had the conscious object to cause death or serious bodily injury. The commission of murder is “knowing” when the defendant is aware that death or serious bodily injury is practical certain from their conduct.

  1. Felony Murder (Murder Committed During the Course of Certain Major Crimes) Under N.J.S.A. 2C:11-2b(2),(3) or (4)

The second way murder can be committed is by causing the death of another person during the course of committing or fleeing from one of the crimes set forth in subsection (a)(3) of N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3. The crimes that trigger exposure to a felony murder charge include

  • robbery,
  • sexual assault,
  • arson,
  • burglary,
  • kidnapping,
  • carjacking,
  • criminal escape, or

It is critical that you keep in mind that felony murder does not apply to conspiracy to commit one of these offenses but only to those who actively participate in the commission of the crime. To prove a charge of felony murder, the state must first demonstrate that the defendant committed a predicate offense such as robbery. Second, the defendant must have caused the death or serious injuries leading to death during the course of committing or immediate flight from commission of the offense.

Prison Sentences for Murder in New Jersey

The baseline or minimum sentence that someone can receive if convicted of the first-degree crime of murder is thirty (30) years without the possibility of parole (that is, a sentence of 30 years with no possibility of parole or sentenced for up to life imprisonment with 30 years of parole ineligibility).

The term of imprisonment is gets raised to life without the possibility of parole if the victim was a police officer and was murdered during the performance of his/her normal duties or if the victim was under eighteen (18) years old and the defendant committed the murder after subjecting the victim to aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault or aggravated criminal sexual contact. The court must also impose life without parole if the homicide was committed for hire (as in a hit, involving payment of money), ordered by the leader of a drug trafficking network or the murder was committed during the course of an act of terrorism, and a jury finds that one of the following applies:

  • The defendant has a previous conviction for murder;
  • The defendant gave rise to a grave risk of death to another person (in addition to the victim);
  • The defendant’s behavior was outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible or inhuman in that it involved torture, depravity of mind, or an aggravated assault to the victim;
  • The defendant committed the crime in exchange for money or procured the murder by paying money;
  • The murder happened for the purpose of escaping detection, apprehension, trial, punishment or confinement for another offense committed by the defendant or another;
  • The murder happened while the defendant was engaged in the commission of, or an attempt to commit, or flight after the commission of or attempt to commit murder, robbery, sexual assault, arson, burglary, kidnapping, terrorism, or carjacking;
  • The accused murdered a public servant engaged in the performance of his official duties;
  • The accused was the leader of a narcotics trafficking network and committed, commanded or by threat or promise solicited the commission of the murder; or
  • The homicidal act that the defendant committed or procured happened in violation of paragraph (1) of subsection a. of N.J.S.2C:17-2; or
  • The victim was younger than 14 years old.

Juvenile Waived Up to Adult Court for Murder in New Jersey

If the defendant to a murder charge is a juvenile who was waived up to adult court, he or she is subject to a 30-year sentence without the opportunity for parole except for where:

  1. the murder victim is a police officer; or
  2. the victim is younger than 14 years old and was murdered after being raped or otherwise sexually molested by the accused.

The juvenile gets sentenced to life without parole if either of these circumstances applies.

Manslaughter versus Murder in New Jersey Law

Intent is a prerequisite to committing murder so any evidence that can negate this element, for example, intoxication, mental defect, or reasonable belief that self-defense was a necessity, can prove product in reducing a murder charge to manslaughter. You should also be aware that voluntary manslaughter can also come into play where a person has a purpose to kill but is motivated by a sudden passion stemming from a provocation that would cause any reasonable person to lose control.

Pretrial Detention

The presumption of pretrial release shifts to the defendant for a murder charge. What this means is that a defendant charged with murder in New Jersey will need to present a compelling case in order to have the benefit of bail or release on pretrial supervision/monitoring.

What is Criminal Homicide in New Jersey?

As mentioned, Criminal Homicide has happened when an individual purposely, knowingly or recklessly causes the death of another human being. Accordingly, Criminal Homicide occurs in one of these the three (3) following crimes:

  1. Murder
  2. Manslaughter
  3. Death by Auto

Death by Auto and Criminal Homicide in the State of New Jersey

When prosecuting Death by Auto, under Criminal Homicide, the State will need to demonstrate that the defendant was operating the car or vessel recklessly. A defendant behaves recklessly when he or she consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that death by auto will result from his or her behavior. Intoxication will not suffice as a defense to this charge, as drunk driving is evidence in itself that the defendant operated the vehicle recklessly.

New Jersey Criminal Lawyers

Spodek Law Group is an experienced New Jersey Criminal Defense Firm. We have the experience and skills you need to represent those accused of serious offenses like murder. For a free initial consultation, please contact our offices right away.

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