All the Prosecution needs to charge you with a crime in N.J. is ‘probable Cause’, which essentially requires them to establish ‘a reason to believe that a crime was committed’ and a ‘reason to believe that you were involved in committing the crime’. This is the lowest standard of proof, a far cry from the highest standard, proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
A graphic example of how little proof the State needs to charge you, is to think of a glass of orange juice. You get up in the morning and pour the glass full, you take a sip, make your breakfast, put the cat out, take a sip of the OJ, you bring the cat in, finish the juice, put the glass in the sink, eat your breakfast and put your dishes in the sink. The OJ glass now has a small puddle of orange in the bottom of it, when you know that you drink the glass empty. The full glass can be compared to ‘Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt’ the amount of proof needed to convict you at trial. The small puddle in the bottom of the glass can be compared to ‘Probable Cause’ the amount of proof needed to charge you with a criminal offense.
The burden of proving guilt of a criminal offense is always on the State, and never shifts to the defendant. What does shift is the standard of proof that applies to the particular proceeding, hearing or trial.
As part of my conversations with potential N.J. criminal defense clients, I often need to discuss the evidentiary standard that applies to the proof the police have developed up to that point. One of the most compelling types of evidence, regardless of the type of proceeding (whether at trial, during an application for a search warrant, or a Motion to Suppress Evidence) is a statement by the defendant, admitting their involvement in the crime; their presence at the scene; or, their guilt in what occurred.
If you are under arrest or under investigation for a crime, STOP TALKING! SAY I WANT TO REMAIN SILENT and I WANT A LAWYER. Protect your rights and freedom, and do not help build a case that can meet the standard of proof needed to convict you. If the police are going to arrest you, they will whether you help them by giving a statement. Don’t help them build a better case against you.