Domestic Violence, And What You Need to Know About Restraining Orders In New Jersey

What are the requirements for filing a restraining order in New Jersey, who do they protect, and do they work?  If you have one filed against you, what does it mean, and can you ever get it lifted?  All good questions, and exactly the ones you should be asking yourself.  Restraining orders are applied for in the Family Court, and issued by Family Court Judges. So why is a criminal attorney writing about this? This area of law is procedurally family law, but is criminal law in it’s substantive analysis, and many of my clients are simultaneously charged with crimes that are the basis of the restraining order.  Any person that is the victim of domestic violence may apply for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO). To qualify as a victim of domestic violence under Rule 5:7A, a person must be a spouse or ex-spouse, or involved or previously involved in a romantic or sexual relationship, or be a family member, or have co-habitated with, or have a child with the defendant.  To determine if an act qualifies as domestic violence, an alleged abuser must have committed one of the following crimes under title 2C: Harassment under 2C:33-4Terroristic Threats under 2C:12-3Stalking under 2C:12-10Assault under 2C:12-1Criminal Mischief under 2C:17-3Sexual Assault under 2C:14-2Lewdness under 2C:14-4, Trespass under 2C:18-3, or Burglary under 2C:18-2.  During a hearing, if a judge is satisfied that these elements have been proven, he will finalize the restraining order, making it permanent (FRO).  So, even though restraining orders are classified as civil litigation in the chancery division, it is my professional opinion that to properly represented clients, whether they are plaintiffs or defendants, an attorney should be highly skilled in criminal defense litigation.

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Shoplifting in New Jersey

There’s no way anyone can see what you’re doing, right?  You glance around to make sure.  Maybe it’s expensive designer clothing, electronics, phone cards, allergy medication, jewelry, cosmetics, a pack of smokes, diapers, or baby formula… Your heart is beating fast, but this is easy, you think to yourself.  You’re past the cash registers, and nearing the exit. You’re almost home free!  That’s when you hear him.  A loud, stern voice. “Excuse me, stop right there, we need to speak to you.”  Your heart sinks… You know they’re talking to you.  You turn around, and see two store security guards.  “Can I help you?”  You stammer, trying to seem nonchalant.  “Would you come with us please.”  They aren’t actually asking.  “What is this about?”  You lie,  knowing very well what it’s about. In that instant you desperately regret your actions, because you’ve just gotten caught shoplifting…

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Underage Drinking in New Jersey – Tragedy at Rutgers

As a New Jersey criminal defense attorney who maintains a practice in East Brunswick, in Middlesex County, I have represented more than my fair share of Rutgers students from both the Piscataway and New Brunswick campuses over the years. Usually it’s the same litany of charges: Noise violations, disorderly conduct, the very rare simple assault charge, drinking in public, urinating in public, possession of small amounts of marijuana, underage possession of alcohol, and… underage drinking. Summonses that range from ordinance violations, to disorderly persons offenses. Not very serious. I confess that most of the time I’ve had a fairly casual attitude towards this type of behavior, assuring nervous parents retaining me for their children that these types of incidents are very common amongst college students, and that I’m very good at getting them worked out in court. It’s not that I don’t take these cases seriously, I do. I know full well that at the end of the day, moms and dads don’t want their college aged children to have a record for behavior that was really nothing more than a momentary lapse of judgment. I can certainly understand that, and as an attorney, I take that responsibility seriously. Perhaps that is why, personally, I’ve had that casual attitude, viewing these incidents as nothing more than foolish behavior, combined with confidence in my ability to resolve these matters successfully. On September 21, 2014 sophomore Rutgers student Caitlyn P. Kovacs passed away due to what is believed to be acute alcohol poisoning. She was only 19.

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Ray Rice, and Assault Prosecutions in New Jersey

It was the punch seen ’round the world.  It was tough to watch, and I’m saying that as a veteran criminal defense attorney who’s seen it all.  I’m referring to Ray Rice, and the one punch knock-out blow that floored his then fiancée, Janay Palmer (now, Janay Rice) in the elevator of the Revel casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey.  There has been much conjecture about the propriety of his NFL suspension, and about the man who made that decision, NFL Commissioner Rodger Goodell.  So too there has been much discussion about the criminal assault prosecution, and the manner in which it was pursued by the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office, and Prosecutor James’s P. McClain.  Some people feel the prosecution was heavy-handed, and that Ray Rice was only charged with Aggravated Assault because it was a high-profile case, and the prosecutor’s office didn’t want to appear weak on domestic assault.  Some people feel he got a slap on the wrist because he was a high-profile NFL player, and former Rutgers University standout.  The reality is that without a cooperating witness, even though the act was captured on video, a case like this can be difficult to prosecute.  An uncooperative victim/witness is common in domestic assault cases, and why the decisions made by the prosecutor’s office were extremely pragmatic.

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Marijuana Laws in New Jersey: A Growing Issue in the Garden State

Pot, weed, ganja, chronic, whatever you want to call it, never before has marijuana been so prevalent in the media, or made such advances towards legalization than it has in the last few years.  The argument has long been made, that getting high is no worse for you than smoking cigarettes and drinking alcoholic beverages.  Some doctors have even suggested that systemically, marijuana is actually less harmful to your health than alcohol.  If that were true, why is marijuana illegal?  The theories are numerous.  Some suggest that total legalization would make it too difficult for the government to regulate, as people could grow and sell marijuana without paying taxes.  Others believe that marijuana is not as harmless as advocates suggest, and that it not only has deleterious physical and psychological health issues, but also that legalization would increase the number of people driving their cars while high.  So what is the truth?  While you can find numerous “expert reports” and articles on both sides of the debate, which argue very persuasively, the reality is that there is no decisive evidence on either side.  Reading everything there is to read on the subject, I am of the opinion that marijuana is neither as dangerous as some in law enforcement would seem to suggest, nor is it as harmless as proponents of legalization would argue.  As such, whether to toke, or not toke remains a very personal decision for many people.

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Red Light Cameras in New Jersey: Safety Issue, or Money Grab?

You’ve seen them all around the state, silently lurking at intersections like tireless, robotic sentinels, waiting for you to make a mistake. Maybe you haven’t noticed them, and you’ve been in the unfortunate majority who have received a ticket in the mail…For running a red light. Hey, at least you get a nifty picture of your car for free! I’m talking about red light cameras. There are 76 operational red light cameras in New Jersey that were installed pursuant to a five year pilot program in order to determine the effectiveness of these cameras in monitoring traffic control signals. To see the locations of these cameras, click here.  The stated purpose in doing this was to address, “crashes associated with red light running”, and to supplement “traditional, overburdened enforcement resources.” However, two rather large questions surround their use; Do they work, and are they fair?

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Help! I Just Got Arrested in New Jersey, and the Cops Didn’t Read Me My Rights!

As a veteran criminal defense attorney in New Jersey, It is probably the most frequently asked question I get asked, and it is usually the first thing clients say when they sit down for a consult. “When I got arrested, the cop didn’t read me my rights, don’t they have to dismiss the charge”? The short and simple answer, is no. The longer and slightly more complex answer, is maybe. Miranda rights are some of the most important rights a criminal defendant has, so it is important to know them. So important, in fact, that Supreme Court of the United States has said in the landmark case of Miranda v. Arizona, that a defendant who is under arrest and is going to be interrogated must be informed of these rights before any questioning can begin. So, what does that mean, what are Miranda rights, and what happens when a defendant isn’t read his rights?

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New Jersey’s Heroin Epidemic

If you have been paying attention, you have become aware of a very serious problem in New Jersey. Heroin… Authorities are calling the problem an epidemic, with record rates of addiction, overdose, and purity of the drug. A report by the Task Force on Heroin and Other Opiate Use by New Jersey Youth and Young Adults has identified heroin and opiate abuse as the number one healthcare crisis in the state. According to the DEA, the purity hovers around 58%, a 12% increase from 2011.  See more DEA analysis, here.  The drug is being trafficked from South America and is arriving in ports in the United States in Newark, Elizabeth, and Philadelphia. In 2012, there were 557 heroin deaths from overdose, which does not even include the untold number of deaths that are always a part of the drug trade. Certain counties seem to be getting hit harder than others; Ocean County and Monmouth County in particular, but with its high purity, easy availability, and cheap price (a bag of quality heroin can be purchased on the street for 5 dollars) it is not hard to see why the drug has made its way across the entire state. As a veteran criminal defense attorney who has represented countless clients charged with indictable drug offenses over the years, it is easy for me see that the number of heroin arrests has trended dramatically upward. It is driving otherwise good people, adults and kids alike, into committing crimes, thefts and burglaries, to support the addiction.

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New Jersey’s Gun Control Laws, The Second Amendment, and Shaneen Allen…

As a veteran New Jersey criminal defense attorney, I have frequently represented clients charged with gun crimes in the Garden State. In New Jersey, the laws designed to regulate the sale, purchase, and ownership of guns are so complicated and restrictive, that even otherwise law-abiding citizens can accidentally break the law. Twenty-seven year old, Philadelphia single mother of two, Shaneen Allen found this out the hard way when she was pulled over on the Atlantic City Expressway In October of 2013…

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