Can My Rap Lyrics Be Used Against Me In Court?
Rap is one of the most popular genres of music in the United States. Although it was once extremely obscure, it has risen with impressive speed – becoming the number-one choice for many young people today. Not only are young people listening to rap music, but they are also creating their own raps at an unprecedented rate. Rap is one of the easiest genres of music to produce, and it doesn’t require much in the way of music equipment or specialized training with a particular instrument. But as many rappers in New Jersey are discovering, the lyrical content of their music may be used against them in court. But is this really fair? What can you do if your own raps are being used against you in court to prove guilt?
A Short History of Rap Lyrics in New Jersey Courts
In 2014, the New Jersey State Supreme Court ruled that a defendant’s rap lyrics should not have been introduced in his trial for attempted murder – even though the lyrics painted a picture of a violent lifestyle. This put an end to a long line of cases in which police and prosecutors used defendants’ rap lyrics to help prove their criminal charges. The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled 6-0 in favor of the defendant, stating:
“One would not presume that Bob Marley, who wrote the well-known song ‘I Shot the Sheriff,’ actually shot a sheriff, or that Edgar Allan Poe buried a man beneath his floorboards, as depicted in his short story ‘The Tell-Tale Heart,’ simply because of their respective artistic endeavors on those subjects. The Court reasons that defendant’s lyrics should receive no different treatment.”
It should be noted that the defendant was re-tried, convicted of two counts of aggravated assault, and sentenced to 16 years in prison. Even though the lyrics could not be used against him, their omission from the trial only helped him avoid the more serious attempted murder charge.
The Concept of Probative Value
While the Supreme Court ruling left a mark on New Jersey criminal law, it does not completely prohibit the use of rap lyrics as evidence in all future cases. The Supreme Court noted in the 2014 ruling that the lyrics should not be admitted as evidence because they offered little to no “probative value.”
When evidence has a good chance of proving a relevant fact or issue, it is said to have high probative value. The rap lyrics in the 2014 case may have pointed to a violent lifestyle, but they did not actually tie the defendant to the attempted murder in any concrete fashion. If the defendant had used the victim’s name in the lyrics or described in detail how he had carried out the murder, the Supreme Court might have ruled differently.
Where Can I Find a Qualified Criminal Defense Attorney in New Jersey?
If you’ve been searching for a qualified, experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney, look no further than Phillip J. Murphy, Attorney at Law. With our assistance, you can strive for the best possible results. You have rights when you face charges in New Jersey – but you can’t fight for these rights if you’re not actually aware of them. If someone is trying to use your rap lyrics to convict you of a crime, you can push back with established protections. Your most important right in this situation is your right to an attorney – so make the most of it and book your consultation with us today.