Criminal Law

Both New Jersey and New York have criminal codes in place that, separate of their common law counterparts, provide coherent outlines for the treatment of homicidal offenses in their state, from the negligent to the egregious. Like all states, both laws are subject to Federal Title 18 - Crimes and Criminal Procedure, and cover homicide, murder, and manslaughter, from accusation, culpability, definition, procedural limitations, and even punishment. Nevertheless, despite their similarities in purpose and penal achievement, the codes are each unique. New Jersey provides a legal umbrella with 2C, illuminating and simplifying the complex process of understanding all criminal activity, particularly homicide. New York, on the other hand, disperses its criminal legalities throughout many sources and codes, and presents a much more complicated picture of definition and punishment. While each state touches on the issue of abortion, they lay out very different plans for legally dealing with the highly politicized debate in its actuality through their homicidal law sets.

The Criminal Code in the state of New Jersey clearly defines its purpose as thee protection of the civil society and the participants therein. It expressly states it is designed "To forbid, prevent, and condemn conduct that unjustifiably and inexcusably inflicts or threatens serious harm to individual or public interests; To insure the public safety by preventing the commission of offenses." (2C: 1a, 1-3) Additionally, it seeks to exercise judicial strength through the executive branch in its deterrence of the influences of authorized sentences, the rehabilitation of those convicted, and to protect the public from those criminals who commit such crimes. (2C: 1a, 1, 3) Through this achievement, it establishes a nature of social control that limns the definitions of criminal activity in light of severity and mental state, as well as applying the standard accepted methods of science and commonly accepted knowledge in the sentence of those who might be successfully restituted to society. (2C: 1b)

The New York Criminal Procedure, part of the New York State Consolidated Laws affirms its position equally, as the benevolent and just protector of society from the most violent crimes that afflict it. The Penal Law is analytically structured and, unlike the coherent Code of New Jersey, includes four special sections, 120.00-165.74, 170.00-235.24, 240.00-275.45, and 400.00 onward. Also unlike the Criminal Code established in New Jersey's 2C, the New York penal law contains an extensive list of offenses - from rapid transit crimes to criminal homicide - that spread over a wide web of sources, making for a more complicated system than that of New Jersey.

Despite their differences, the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice begins as the New York code does as well, by outlining the exacting power and presence of criminal statutes as it relates to society, the individuals it protects, the criminals it seeks to socially modify, and the applicability of the laws in application. While New Jersey law allows for a prosecution to take place at any point in time (N.J.S.2C:11-3, N.J.S.2C:11-4, N.J.S.2C:14-2), 2c limits the time for prosecution for a crime to within five years after its committal, two for offenses of disorder, and seven for those more severe crimes set forth in N.J.S.2C:27-2; it makes separate rules clear for the treatment of minors. While making clear the general requirements of culpability, it reaffirms the need for proof beyond reasonable doubt (2C:2-1), and then further provides for the multi-fold levels of guilt: purposely, knowingly, recklessly, and negligently, from most culpable to least.

According to 2C:1-5, all offenses limned by the Criminal law statute are applicable to offenses defined by other statutes, but specifically segregates the two issues into separate areas of legal conduct. "Common law crimes are abolished and no conduct constitutes an offense unless the offense is defined by this code or another statute of this State." (2C:1-5, a) Despite their separate distinctions, the Criminal statute reaffirms the provision of other laws, local units of government, and Federal powers to employ the enforcement of their ability to punish for contempt, "either summarily or after the indictment," any other civil judgments or decrees. (2:C1-5, c, d.)

In both New York and New Jersey, the criminal codes respond to the problem presented by the homicide sets by including application to the concepts of actus reus, mens rea, and ceasation. Each state covers criminal homicide, murder, manslaughter, and aggravated manslaughter, and both states include all aspects of homicide - including vehicular homicide - in their codes. By carefully outlining the levels of severity in the actual homicide and the degree of culpability, each state structures a criminal offense for homicide that can be viewed in terms of its punishment and place in the law.

The similarities in the two codes breaks most clearly at their treatment of the unborn baby and its place in the manslaughter clause. While most people agree that when a pregnant mother is violently murdered and the child is lost too, two crimes have been committed, the legal issue is made more extreme and all the more important by the place that fetus has in the law when it comes to the nature of its protection of life and the rights of the mother. While abortion is a highly politicized issue, it is also an aspect important to the understanding of each state's homicide laws, since criminal homicide is the place where this very emotional debate becomes entirely legal.

In New Jersey, this debate was brought clearly into frame with the memorable, violent Cordell Harper case of 2003. Cordell Harper was charged with murdering his pregnant girlfriend by bludgeoning her to death with a hammer because she refused to have an abortion; this severely criminal, premeditated murder was made legally complicated when his unborn child was also killed in the attack; at that point, New Jersey criminal law prevented the charge of Harper with the assault upon his unborn child or even an enhanced sentence for attacking his pregnant girlfriend and purposefully killing his child in the process. When New Jersey LSNJ Law provides rights for tenants to have lead-free paint in their housing since lead can hurt unborn children, the scope of the protection of the unborn child was brought strictly into view.

The 2003 incident, combined with a 1997 ban on late-term abortions (beyond 12 weeks, today parallel to the pro-life Bush doctrine), has created a muddied political water that restricts young women's access to abortion, provides targeted regulation of abortion providers, allows for emergency contraception, and promotes low-income access to abortion. In the political atmosphere witnessed in most urban centers throughout America, the debate over legal protection of the fetus extends between a woman's right to choose and the protection of innocent feti victims to terrible manslaughters of their mothers.

The struggle between common law and criminal law is never more apparent in the New Jersey criminal code as in 2C:11-2 and 2C:11-5.

The structure of the legal protection of the fetus in New Jersey's Criminal Code as it deals with homicides was furthered in 182 N.J. Super. 334, 440 A.2d 1174, in which a vehicular homicide and fetal death came into glaring disparity. The mother, killed, was three days from her expected due date, and a compelte abruption of her placenta resulted in a stillborn fetus. The court rejected the application of Roe V. Wade to vehicular homicide, and it became clear that 2C provided no explicit protection for a fetus killed, even with intention, in a car accident. 2C:11-3 states that Murder is clearly defined when "the actor knowingly causes death or serious bodily injury resulting in death," but the political environment might further the accusation to manslaughter, depending upon the philosophical approach of the community; like all communities with an active political community on both sides of the aisle do, New Jersey is home to both civic and…