Anatomy of the New Jersey Constitution
The New Jersey Constitution similar to the US Constitution provides for many rights that protect a defendant in a criminal case.
New Jersey Constitution, Article I, Section 9 states: “The right of trial by jury shall remain inviolate…”
This means a criminal defendant has the right to have a jury trial, where everyday people from different parts of a community to decide the facts, instead of the court who may represent only the educated and financially well off. In a jury trial, jurors are questioned for indifference to make sure they are not prejudiced against a defendant even before they start hearing the evidence. The court usually instructs the jury not to be influenced by any media coverage, and not to discuss the case outside of the jury room, even on Facebook or Twitter. A juror can be fined for violating jury instructions because jury misconduct may cause a mistrial.
New Jersey Constitution, Article I, Section 10 states: “In all criminal prosecutions the accused shall have the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury; to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor; and to have the assistance of counsel in his defense.”
The right to counsel encompasses the right to be assisted by a reasonably competent attorney. To reverse a conviction on the ground of ineffective counsel, the defendant must show counsel’s: (1) representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness, and (2) deficient performance prejudiced the defendant, resulting in an unreliable or fundamentally unfair outcome in the proceeding.
A criminal defendant must be informed of the accusations in order to properly defend. The accusations are usually written in a complaint, and during arraignment, the first court appearance, the court must read the complaint to the defendant, unless the defendant waives the reading.
Under the right to confrontation, each party has an opportunity to observe and cross examine witness testimonies. The defendant has the right to get witnesses that will testify in his/her favor.
The speedy trial clause is to prevent a wrongly accused person who cannot afford bail from being imprisoned for a crime s/he did not commit. The public trial clause requires court proceedings to be public so everyone, including the press, can monitor the proceedings to ensure fairness, rather than letting cases resolve in secret.
New Jersey Constitution, Article I, Section 11 states: “No person shall, after acquittal, be tried for the same offense…”
This section protects a person from double jeopardy. If the state makes a trial error, the state does not get a second chance, even when it later finds more evidence against a criminal defendant. The goal is to allow people to move on in life, and not go through the emotions of being accused of a crime more than once.
When charged with a crime, engage an experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney who can raise the protections of New Jersey constitutional rights. Contact the Law Office of Jason A. Volet at (732) 503-8968 or fill out the form on the right.