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Understanding Duress & Consent Defenses in NJ

Carmine Villani
Have you been accused of a crime and feel that you were under duress (coercion) or that there was consent for your actions? In New Jersey, the affirmative defenses of duress and consent may provide an opportunity to defeat a criminal charge. Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to protect your rights. The attorneys at Villani & DeLuca in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey possess the experience and knowledge needed to fight your charges by way of either a duress or consent defense. Villani & DeLuca has experience all throughout Monmouth and Ocean Counties – including Long Branch and Brick.

NJ Duress Defense

Under N.J.S.A. 2C:2-9, the term “duress” refers to a situation wherein a person performs an act as a result of coercion, threat, violence or other pressure that a reasonable person would be unable to resist. Under New Jersey law, duress can be used as an affirmative defense. An affirmative defense may exonerate a defendant of a criminal charge. The defendant must adequately prove the duress with sufficient evidence. Once there is evidence to support the duress, the State must disprove the duress beyond a reasonable doubt. This defense may be raised on any offense no matter how severe. However, in a murder charge, a duress defense will only reduce the degree of the crime to manslaughter.
In order to succeed on a duress defense, the defendant must prove two things. First, the defendant must establish that he or she was under considerable duress. In order for duress to be proven, there must be a threat to harm the defendant or another person. A threat to property is not sufficient to apply for this. In addition, it is not considered duress if the defendant knowingly put themselves in a situation where they would be subject to duress or if the defendant engaged in criminal behavior that placed them in a situation where it was likely that he would be subject to duress. Also, a woman cannot claim duress simply because she acted at the request of her husband.
Secondly, the defendant must prove that the duress was such that any other reasonable person in the defendant's shoes would have been unable to resist.

NJ Consent Defense

Under N.J.S.A. 2C:2-10, consent is another affirmative defense which would exonerate a defendant of a criminal charge if adequately proven. Consent refers to a situation wherein the victim consents to the conduct charged. Under New Jersey law, there are two types of consent defenses. The first is when the victim had consented to the conduct charged or an element of the conduct charged. The second is where consent excludes the infliction of harm sought to be prevented by the law defining the offense.
There are limitations on the New Jersey consent defense when it involves bodily harm or threats to inflict bodily harm. In the case of bodily harm, a consent defense can only be used in three instances:

  • The bodily harm consented to was not serious;
  • The bodily harm was a foreseeable hazard in participating in an activity not prohibited by law (such as boxing); or
  • The consent establishes a justification for bodily harm which results from medical treatment.

Under New Jersey law, consent is not considered a valid defense if it was given by a person who is underage, lacking full mental capacity, or was intoxicated and thus lacking reasonable judgment. Consent can also not be used if it was induced by force, duress or deception.

Defending NJ Criminal Cases

If you find yourself in a situation where you  have been charged with a criminal offense that involved duress or consent, a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney can help you. These defenses may exonerate you of the crimes with which you have been charged, but only if they follow the specifics of the law. Don't try to use a duress or consent defense on your own. The attorneys at Villani & DeLuca possess the knowledge and experience needed to proceed correctly in order to use these defenses to your advantage. They can help clients facing charges up and down the coastal communities – from Red Bank to Toms River. Call today for help!

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Villani & DeLuca, P.C. is committed to answering your questions about Divorce & Family Law, Criminal Defense, Personal Injury, and DWI & Traffic Law issues in New Jersey. We offer a Free Consultation and we'll gladly discuss your case with you at your convenience. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.