De Minimus Infractions in New Jersey

Posted over 5 years ago. Applies to New Jersey, 3 helpful votes



You Were Within The Customary License

The complaint may be dismissed if the violation was within a customary tolerance (or license), so long as the person whose interest was impacted has not expressly negated the tolerance/license. An example would be a buffet at a restaurant, which had fruit as part of the buffet, and a customer takes a piece of the fruit and leaves the restaurant. The person could have eaten the food inside the restaurant, the food was portable, and person took only the one serving without any other item belonging to the restaurant. The person was never told he had to eat the fruit inside the restaurant, there were no signs posted saying the food could not be carried outside, and the person had in fact been a patron of the restaurant. If you believe that the conduct you are charged with is minor, and within the normally allowed use of the interest you are using, then discuss this defense with your lawyer.


You Did Not Cause or Threaten Harm

The complaint may be dismissed if the conduct did not actually cause or threaten to cause the harm the statute seeks to prevent. Similarly, if the harm occurred but was actually trivial, the complaint may be dismissed. An example would be two vocal protagonists, vigorously debating an issue, in a manner that included physical manifestations such as arm-waving. One of them uses his finger to punctuate a point, and ends up jabbing his finger into the other person. There was contact, and brief physical pain, but not enough to warrant a prosecution. In practice, the courts have used this type of argument to dismiss a complaint when the factual basis to charge exists, but the facts will not be sufficient under the standard for conviction, proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Discuss the facts of your case with your lawyer if you can assert that the harm sought to be prevented by the charge did not occur in your case.


There Were Extenuating Circumstances

The complaint may be dismissed if extenuating circumstances occurred that could not have been reasonably foreseen by the legislature when the law was created. This basis requires something extraordinary and unanticipated to have happened, and does not include the hardships caused by the defendant being incarcerated. In perspective, this is a very difficult standard to meet. If you think that you have an extenuating or unforeseen circumstance that pertains to a minimal infraction of the law, discuss the issue with your lawyer before any other decisions are made as to how to resolve the case.

Additional Resources

NJ Criminal Defense

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