What are the Possible Defenses for a Criminal Restraint Charge in New Jersey?

  • Criminal Defense

Most people understand what is meant when you use the term kidnapping but this is in direct contrast to the look of confusion many have upon hearing the term criminal restraint used. This is a charge that sits in a middle-ground area between a kidnapping charge and a lesser false imprisonment charge.

To get a better grasp of what defenses are available for a criminal restraint charge it’ll be helpful to first take a look at what makes a criminal restraint charge unique from the other types of kidnapping charges previously mentioned. Once we understand what it is we’ll look at what penalties you face if found guilty and then take a peek at what defenses are common.

What is a Criminal Restraint Charge?

Criminal restraint is covered under Section 2C:13-2 of The New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice which defines criminal restraint with two criteria, plus an explanation that expands one of the criteria a little further.

The statements that define criminal restraint are as follows:

  • Restraining another unlawfully in circumstances which expose them to risk of serious bodily injury.


  • Holding another person in a condition of involuntary servitude.

The code goes on to further expand what is considered to be involuntary servitude by making it clear that if an individual creates circumstances which cause the victim to believe that they must remain in a particular location then this will also count as involuntary servitude under New Jersey law.

These definitions let us see that a charge of criminal restraint does not necessarily need to come from physical restraint but can be verbal. It also makes it clear that violence is not a necessary factor in criminal restraint, as the risk of serious bodily injury is enough to qualify.

This brings up an important point to note which is that criminal restraint charges are often accompanying another charge, such as assault for example. In these cases it is important to keep in mind that you are dealing with multiple charges, each of which will need to be defended against and each of which will have its own possible penalties on top of those from the criminal restraint charge itself.

What are the Possible Penalties for a Criminal Restraint Charge?

Criminal restraint is a crime of the third degree in New Jersey. As such being found guilty can result in up to five years imprisonment and a fine of up to $15,000 dollars. Interestingly, the chances of imprisonment are lesser with a criminal restraint charge than they may sound depending on where you are charged.

For example, a third degree crime in Judson County comes with a presumption of non-custodial sentence; that is to say, the presumption that imprisonment will not be part of the punishment. However, take note that the state itself can decide to ignore this presumption depending on the circumstances of the charge in question.

Of course it goes without saying that more charges will make it less likely to get away without some time of sentencing if found guilty. However, one thing that may be useful is to argue that a lesser charge is more appropriate and thereby get a lesser penalty.

Being found guilty of a crime of the third degree in New Jersey may open you up to be eligible to join a diversionary program like New Jersey’s Pretrial Intervention program. Successful completion of the diversionary program without any violation of its conditions can see the charges dismissed.

What Possible Defenses are there for a Criminal Restraint Charge?

We just covered one of the best ways to get your charges dismissed. This is not technically a defense because it takes place before a trial ever comes to pass and so going the route of a diversionary program actually eliminates the need to craft a defense.

But if you are not eligible for a diversionary program then you will need to argue your innocence in court and that means a powerful defense. There are several which could work depending on the specific circumstances of your case. They are as follows:

  • Affirmative Defense: This is an odd defense because it is straight-forward in admitting that you did in fact restrain the individual. However, an affirmative defense only works if the person being held was under the age of 18, you are a relative or legal guardian and your sole purpose was to assume control of the child. The important thing to note here is the term “sole purpose.” You could be the parent of the child but if your purpose in holding them was to deprive the other parent then this defense doesn’t work.
  • Constitutional Violation: The Constitution protects your right against invalid search and seizures under the 4th Amendment. Another right is the right to an attorney. If your constitutional rights were violated then it may be possible to have the charge dismissed.
  • Lack of Evidence: Evidence is an important factor in proving your guilt. A lack of evidence means a lack of proof that you are guilty of what you are being accused of. Lack of evidence doesn’t mean that the prosecution didn’t find any but rather that your attorney helps to contradict the evidence against you.
  • Reasonable Doubt: For a criminal case to be found guilty the jury must believe that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If you can plant a seed of doubt into the mind of the jury then it is nearly impossible to consider the case to be beyond reasonable doubt.

Can an Attorney Help Me with a Defense for My Criminal Restraint Charge?

If you find yourself charged with criminal restraint then you shouldn’t wait. Act fast and retrain the services of an experienced attorney such as those here at The Hernandez Law Firm. A criminal defense attorney will be able to provide you with more and specific defense strategies which take into account the specifics of your case.

Remember that the longer you wait, the less time there is to build a solid defense. Give us a call at (732) 582-5076 to share the details of your case and start building a defensive strategy to win.

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