Both the New Jersey Constitution and N.J.S.A. 2C:1-13 require that the State prove each and every element of a crime “beyond reasonable doubt” before an individual may be found guilty. Absent proof which meets this standard, an accused is presumed innocent. This principal is the byproduct of the constitutional presumption that an individual is innocent until proven guilty.
It is important to keep in mind that the burden of proof applies to every “element” of a crime. An element of a criminal offense is a particular behavior or result which; (1) is set forth in a criminal offense; or (2) represents a state of mind required under a criminal statute. The prosecutor is obligated to prove an element beyond reasonable doubt to succeed in his prosecution, otherwise, the accused is to be found not guilty.
An affirmative defense should not be confused with an element of an offense as a different standard applies. An affirmative defense, unlike an element, is simply a basis for excusing conduct which otherwise constitutes a criminal offense. An accused can succeed in proving an affirmative defense by establishing its existence by a preponderance of the evidence.
It is important that a defendant retain a knowledgeable and seasoned criminal lawyer to insure that the State is held to its burden of proof. The defense lawyers at our law firm, the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall have years of experience litigating criminal cases in NJ and would be happy to assist you in defending your case. Please do not hesitate to contact our office as an attorney is available to guide you through this difficult time.