Areas of Criminal Defense Expertise


According to the laws of the State of New Jersey, murder is a crime of the first degree. In a prosecution for the crime of murder, the State must prove three elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. First, it must be proved that a person died;
  2. Second, it must be proved that the defendant caused the death or serious bodily injury resulting in death;
  3. Third, it must be proved that the defendant acted purposely or knowingly.

Purposely or knowingly causing serious bodily injury which results in death is enough for a murder conviction. The State must prove that the defendant caused the death of another or serious bodily injury resulting in the death of another and that the death or serious bodily injury resulting in death was within the design or contemplation of the defendant. There is no statute of limitations on a prosecution for a charge of murder.

Murder, aggravated manslaughter and manslaughter, as well as homicide caused while operating a motor vehicle or vessel, are very serious and carry heavy penalties for those convicted, which is why you need proper, professional legal representation. Martin D. Matlaga has represented clients in New Jersey and New York for more than 30 years, handling murder and other very serious cases. Do not delay, call Martin immediately.

Sexual Assault

In New Jersey, sexual assault is the legal term for rape. Some elements of Sexual Assault include having sexual contact with someone who is under 13 years of age (and you are over 17), and, committing an act of sexual penetration when the victim is at least 16-years-old but less than 18 years of age and under your supervision.

Punishment depends on the circumstances of the crime and age of the victim. Generally, sexual assault is a second-degree crime and carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence.

Aggravated sexual assault is a first-degree crime and carries up to 20 years in prison.

If you are convicted of these crimes, you will have to register as a sexual offender with the State of New Jersey for the rest of your life! Even juvenile sex offenders must register.

There is NO statute of limitations on prosecuting sexual assault in New Jersey.

Any sexual assault crime is considered to be an extremely serious criminal charge that can result in severe consequences and penalties. If you’ve been arrested for violating New Jersey’s sexual assault laws, it’s best to speak with Martin D. Matlaga, an experienced certified criminal trial lawyer who knows how to defend against these dangerous charges. He can explain your options and represent you in plea negotiations and trial, if necessary.

Armed Robbery

Armed robbery is a very serious offense and is considered either a first or second-degree crime in the State of New Jersey. Those convicted can face up to 20 years in prison depending on the charges.

There are three types of acts that, if committed by someone, can result in a charge of robbery:

  1. The accused inflicting bodily injury or using force while committing a theft, or;
  2. The accused threatening bodily injury to or purposely putting someone in fear of immediate bodily injury while in the act of committing a theft, or;
  3. The accused commits or threatens immediately to commit a first or second-degree crime while in the act of committing theft.

While a Court will consider charges of robbery as a second-degree crime under ordinary circumstances (N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1), if a person is threatened with a weapon, if the accused attempts to commit theft while armed, if the accused attempts to kill anyone or if the accused attempts to or succeeds in causing serious bodily injury to someone, the charge will be considered a first-degree armed crime.

Law enforcement officers, prosecutors and other state officials can make mistakes when charging individuals. That’s why it is crucial to have proper criminal defense representation if you are charged with a serious crime like robbery. If you are charged with and found guilty of first-degree armed robbery, you can face a sentence of 10 to 20 years in prison. Second-degree robbery carries sentences between five and 10 years. Because these are such serious charges that carry very strong penalties, you need proper legal representation and a criminal defense attorney who understands robbery its potential punishments. Martin D. Matlaga has been practicing law for more than 30 years and has a solid understanding of jury trials and these types of charges.

Aggravated Assault

Assault can be either simple or aggravated. Aggravated assault is the more serious of the two charges and carries harsher penalties. The State of New Jersey can charge you with aggravated assault for a number of reasons, some of which are if they believe you:

  1. Recklessly caused bodily injury to someone with a deadly weapon, or;
  2. Attempted to cause or purposefully or knowingly cause bodily injury to another person with a deadly weapon, or;
  3. Attempted to cause serious bodily injury to another, or caused such injury purposely or knowingly or under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life recklessly caused such injury, or;
  4. Knowingly pointed a firearm at another person.

An individual can be charged with aggravated assault in the fourth, third, or even the second degree. Crimes (indictable offenses) are felony level offenses under New Jersey law. The way the charge is brought against an individual depends on the result of the assault in question, who it was committed against (for example, a police officer) and other specifics of the case. In general, an individual convicted of second degree aggravated assault could face up to 10 years in prison.

If you are charged with aggravated assault, your best move is to say nothing and immediately pick up the phone and contact an experienced criminal defense attorney like Martin D. Matlaga. He has represented clients in New Jersey and New York for decades, helping them face very serious charges such as aggravated assault.

Drug Charges

Although many drug arrests in New Jersey are initiated by the police after a motor vehicle stop, persons, buildings and even your own home can be searched by police if they have a search warrant, although there are some exceptions to the warrant requirement. If you’re charged with possession or distribution of drugs of any kind, it’s very important that you have a thorough understanding of Fourth Amendment search and seizure law and a strong, competent criminal defense attorney like Martin D. Matlaga who specializes in the defense of drug possession and distribution.

The laws pertaining to controlled dangerous substances (CDS) or drug charges may be found in the New Jersey Criminal Code beginning with N.J.S.A. 2C:35-1 and ending withN.J.S.A. 2C:35-31.These involve the possession, manufacturing and distribution of drugs, among other considerations.

Possession of controlled dangerous substance charges in New Jersey are graded according to a schedule. Possession, for example, of cocaine, heroin, oxycontin and ecstasy are third-degree crimes punishable by up to five years in prison and a $35,000 fine. Prison exposure and fines are much greater for crimes involving distribution, but not all first-time offenders receive prison sentences. And in light of developing public attitudes toward marijuana, the treatment of this particular CDS may soon be an exception to the current laws. All drug charges in New Jersy also carry a mandatory minimum six-month driver’s license suspension, regardless of whether the offense took place in a car unless the defense can show extreme hardship.

An experienced drug possession/distribution criminal defense attorney will demand that the police produce every piece of evidence involved in the case. The assistant prosecutor must also produce all evidence in their possession which may help your defense. This is why an experienced certified criminal defense attorney like Martin D. Matlaga is your best choice to defend yourself against any drug charge in New Jersey or New York. If you are charged with a drug possession/distribution offense, do not delay and contact Martin immediately.

Weapons Charges

Possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose is governed by New Jersey statute N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4. An individual who is in possession of a weapon, in particular a firearm, with the purpose to use it unlawfully against another person or that person’s property is guilty of a crime of the second-degree. Upon conviction, the individual will face a state prison sentence of between five and 10 years. In addition, an individual who possesses, receives or transfers a gun which is deemed a “community gun” is guilty of a crime of the second-degree and upon conviction will be sentenced to a term of imprisonment between five and 10 years as well.  Under section d. of N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4, any individual who possesses a weapon that is not a firearm with the purpose of using it unlawfully against another person or that person’s property will be guilty of a crime of the third-degree and be subjected to a sentence of between three and five years in New Jersey state prison upon conviction. Weapons charges are very serious and can bring major consequences to someone if convicted. If you are charged with a weapons possession offense, you need to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney who understands the law and will know how to help you mount a defense to this type of charge. Contact Martin D. Matlaga immediately and he will explain the law clearly to you and provide you with all possible weapons possession defense options.

Burglary Charges

N.J.S.A. 2C: 18-2 burglary is a charge that carries serious penalties with the very real possibility of prison time if there is a conviction. In New Jersey, the offense is treated quite harshly. As with many other states, you don’t have to be successful in your burglary attempt in order to be charged. So actually, even if you have broken into a building with the purpose of stealing something and walked away empty-handed, you can still be convicted. Burglary is defined as entering or remaining on property that you have no lawful right to be on for the purpose of committing an offense. Generally, burglary is classified as a third-degree crime that carries up to a five-year prison sentence. This could even apply even if you enter a property legally during business hours but stay behind after a business closes. We often think of burglary as a theft offense, but New Jersey law holds that it applies to the purpose to commit any offense in the structure (which includes a vehicle). In some cases, burglary charges can be elevated to a crime of the second-degree. This charge carries up to a 10-year prison sentence. If you commit a burglary, as defined above, and in the commission of the act, you use a weapon, inflict, attempt to inflict or threaten to inflict bodily harm on someone, you could face this elevated charge. In determining the best defense strategy for your burglary case, it goes without saying that the facts will be most important. If you are charged with burglary, do not waste time. Pick up the telephone and call an experienced attorney like Martin D. Matlaga who has represented thousands of clients over his 30+ year career.


Not only in the states of New Jersey and New York, but throughout the entire United States, kidnapping is an extremely serious crime. In some cases, kidnapping may be connected to other charges such as extortion, trafficking, or sexual assault. If you are charged with kidnapping, or any related crime, immediately pick up the phone and contact an experienced criminal defense attorney like Martin D. Matlaga who can help you face these very serious charges.

In New Jersey, kidnapping is defined as unlawfully removing another person from his/her residence, business, or a substantial distance from the location where they were found and holding that person for ransom, reward, or as a shield or hostage.

New Jersey law prohibits confining another individual for any of the following reasons:

  1. To facilitate the commission of any crime or flight after;
  2. To inflict bodily injury on or to terrorize the victim or another;
  3. To interfere with the performance of any governmental or political function;
  4. To permanently deprive a parent, guardian, or other lawful custodian of custody of the victim.

Kidnapping in New Jersey is considered a first-degree crime carrying a sentence of 15 to 30 years imprisonment unless the actor releases the victim to a safe place unharmed prior to being arrested in which the offense is a second-degree crime.


An expungement is a court-ordered process in which an individual’s record of an arrest or criminal conviction is “erased” in the eyes of the law. The availability of expungement and the procedure for getting an arrest or conviction expunged varies according to the type of offense, the seriousness of the offense and whether the individual is a juvenile, young offender, adult, or in some cases, a veteran.

Following the expungement process, an arrest or a criminal conviction may be deemed not to have occurred and need not be disclosed by the person who was arrested or convicted. For example, if the individual who has had a conviction expunged is filling out an application for a job or apartment, they do not have to reveal that conviction or arrest. In most cases, no record of an expunged arrest or conviction will appear if, for example, a potential employer, landlord or educational institution conducts a public records inspection or background search of the individual’s records.

Certain crimes in New Jersey cannot be expunged, including:

  • Murder, Aggravated Manslaughter
  • Kidnapping
  • Aggravated Sexual Assault
  • Criminal Sexual Contact with a Minor
  • Criminal Restraint
  • Robbery
  • Endangering the Welfare of a Child
  • False Imprisonment
  • Perjury
  • First and second-degree Distribution of a Controlled Dangerous Substance
  • First and second-degree Possession of a Controlled Dangerous Substance with Intent to Distribute

If you want to know more about how expungement can potentially clean up your criminal record or if you are eligible for the process, schedule an appointment with Martin D. Matlaga immediately. He has a tremendous amount of experience in helping clients expunge criminal records and will be able to help you today.