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Manslaughter charges dropped against New Jersey man


Being questioned by the police who suspect you are involved in some sort of criminal activity can be daunting. Facing criminal charges likely means that you've been arrested and questioned by police. But what happens if you believe you were coerced into giving a confession?

This was the situation that one New Jersey man found himself in this week. He had been allegedly involved in a fatal drunk driving hit-and-run accident and was charged with a number of crimes including aggravated manslaughter, leaving the scene of a fatal crash and drunk driving.

The incident occurred earlier this year. The man admitted to having some drinks and then getting behind the wheel. He also confirmed that he failed to stop when two officers approached his vehicle on their bicycles and was impaired from the alcohol he had drunk earlier.

When later questioned by the police, he was asked whether he had struck a person while he was drunk driving. After 40 minutes of police interrogation and denying that he had hit anyone, he said that it was a possibility that he had hit a woman. But this admission was thrown out and the charges related to the aggravated manslaughter dismissed.

Why? Because the police had failed to read him his rights before questioning him. No one advised him of his right to remain silent or his right to have an attorney present. The reason why these rights exist is so that suspects in custody are not coerced into admitting something they did not necessarily do.

This man's admission of guilt may have been coerced. Apparently there is no actual evidence that links him to the woman's death. Because of the dismissed charges, the man will likely be sentenced to a year in jail for drunk driving instead of a 30-year prison sentence.

Source: Asbury Park Press, "Charges dismissed against Toms River man in death of 'American Idol' hopeful Alexis Cohen," Kathleen Hopkins, Nov. 29, 2011

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