People make mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes have legal consequences. Anyone who has ever been convicted of a crime in New Jersey can tell you how difficult it can be to get hired for a job with a criminal record. In New Jersey, under certain circumstances, people with criminal convictions can file for an expungement in order to have that conviction erased. An expungement removes and isolates all records on file with any court, any detention or correctional facility, law enforcement agency, or juvenile justice agency. If a judge grants an expungement petition, records regarding a person’s apprehension, arrest, detention, trial, conviction in the criminal justice system, disposition of delinquency in the juvenile justice system, or disposition in any related proceedings, are considered not to have occurred. Additionally, all complaints, warrants, arrests, commitments, processing records, finger prints, photographs, index cards, “rap sheets”, and judicial docket records shall also be expunged. For some people, this means a fresh start.
You’ve been arrested. The cops tried to interrogate you, but you’re too smart for that. You gave them nothing, and asked for an attorney. You’re processed, thrown in a cell, and told you’ll be brought before a judge to have your bail set. Now that the exciting part is over, you have a little bit of time to think. What happens if the judge sets a high bail and I can’t afford to post it? What can an attorney do to help me at this point? These are good questions, and knowing the answers is very important, because my first priority is getting you out of jail, and understanding how bail and bail motions work can help ease your anxiety at this stage of the process.
New Jersey roadways are legendary. A densely populated state, where everyone drives everywhere, the congestion on our main roads and highways is the stuff nightmares are made of. When people compare roadways to “parking lots” – many cars, none of them moving- you know it’s bad. And that applies to Route 18 in East Brunswick into New Brunswick, Route 287, the Garden State Parkway, and of course the New Jersey Turnpike, to name just a few. With that many people and that much traffic, there are bound to be more than a few accidents. Whether they are “fender benders” or major collisions, a motorist has an obligation to remain at the scene of the accident, and report it to the police. Failure to do so will result in summonses for 39:4-129 Leaving the Scene of an Accident (in NJ the statute is technically called Action in Case of Accident), and 39:4-130 Failure to Report Accident (In NJ technically called Immediate Notice of Accident). Even worse, if you’ve left the scene of an accident where an individual sustained serious bodily injury, you will also be charged criminally with 2C:12-1.1 Leaving the Scene of an Accident Resulting in serious Bodily Injury– A third degree indictable offense where, per the statute, the presumption against incarceration for a first time offender does not apply! Very serious stuff.
There has been much focus as of late, on the use of physical force by the police on private citizens. There have been several recent well publicized incidents of alleged police misconduct which have reminded citizens of the true nature of the relationship between citizens and law enforcement. I’m no cop hater, believe me. We need police. If we didn’t have them, living in society would be a violent and dangerous affair, to be sure. But the reality is, in encounters with citizens it is the police that have the exclusive right to use physical force. Test that theory, and you will likely be charged with Resisting Arrest under 2C:29-2, Obstruction of Justice (which in New Jersey, is actually called Obstructing the Administration of Law) under 2C:29-1, Hindering Apprehension under 2C:29-3, or any combination of the three. Depending on the the specific facts of a case, it is not uncommon to see defendants simultaneously charged with Aggravated Assault (on a police officer) under 2C:12-1(b)(5)(a), and Disorderly Conduct under 2C:33-2. In New Jersey, a person being placed under arrest does not have the right to resist, even if the arrest is unlawful. Good faith mistakes happen, and justifying physical resistance under those circumstances creates an unnecessary risk of serious bodily injury to both parties. The really interesting legal quandary occurs when an individual physically resists arrest, where the actions of the police are not only unlawful, but also aggressive and dangerous. More specifically, I want to examine the situation where the police use force which exceeds the proper scope of their authority, and are themselves breaking the law.
I commented back in August of this year, on an article submitted by the editorial board of the Times of Trenton, regarding wearable body cameras for New Jersey police officers. My remarks were simple; It is time that all law enforcement in New Jersey be equipped with wearable video cameras that record all arrests and interactions with persons who are detained for any reason. A joint bill introduced in Trenton this week by NJ state Senator Donald Norcross (D-5 of Camden) and Assemblyman Paul Moriarty (D-4 of Washington Township) could make that a reality. Governor Christie signed a bill into law in August (also introduced by Moriarty) requiring local police cars to have dash mounted cameras. This was a giant leap in the right direction as dash-cams aid in preserving a reliable account of events in and around a patrol car. In this respect, the age of technology has finally caught up with the needs of the criminal justice system, making the once theoretical “objective eye in the sky” one step closer to reality. Such technology would protect police from false allegations, protect defendants from misconduct, and reliably preserve quality objective evidence. Governor Christie should strongly consider the merits of signing this new bill into law.
I have been defending clients charged with residential burglaries and other crimes in New Jersey for over 15 years. In my professional capacity as a criminal lawyer, I have cross-examined countless victims in burglary cases over the years, and the reaction is always the same. Disbelief and outrage. I know how upset they are. Not only are they angry about the theft that has occurred, but they feel violated because a total stranger entered their house to do it. In 2013 there were a string of residential burglaries in Middlesex County, many of them occurring in my hometown of East Brunswick. East Brunswick Police advised residents that the break-ins were occurring during the day. They described that the suspects would walk around the neighborhood and simply knock on doors. If nobody was home, they would walk around to the back of the house and either break a window, or pry a door to gain entry. In November of 2013, three arrests were eventually made, which seemed to stop the burglary rampage, however things didn’t stay quiet for long. Additional burglaries started occurring again, and as recently as January of 2014 the East Brunswick Police announced that they were offering a reward for information leading to arrests.
It is difficult to comprehend the magnitude of the tragic events that have unfolded in Sayreville, New Jersey in the past weeks. First the Sayreville High School football team’s defensive coordinator, Charles Garcia was arrested for possession of steroids. Then there were allegations of hazing and bullying in the team’s locker room. It would have been bad enough to deal with these two incidents, but the hits kept coming. As it turns out, it is alleged that those hazing incidents involved conduct which is much more serious than bullying. The actions alleged at their most serious, if proven true, would constitute Sexual Assault, a crime of the Second Degree, and Aggravated Sexual Assault, a crime of the first degree. Indeed, these are dark days at Sayreville War Memorial High School.
If you live in New Jersey, and participate in target sports, or hunt, or have acquired a firearm for self protection, you may have familiarized yourself with the laws governing ownership of guns in the Garden State. You may also be feeling like your Second Amendment rights are being infringed. Well, you’re right. You see I’m not just a New Jersey gun attorney, I’m also a gun owner, and I am committed to protecting you from criminal prosecution of New Jersey’s Unconstitutional gun laws. A culture has proliferated in New Jersey, that says guns are bad. It’s gotten so bad even, that unbelievably the editorial board of the Star Ledger recently published an article which actually called for gun confiscation, from law abiding citizens, as was done in Australia. I guess they aren’t fans of the Second Amendment, or people’s rights.
In New Jersey, Possession of a Controlled Dangerous Substance (CDS), defined under 2C:35-2, is usually an indictable offense, except for possession of marijuana which is a disorderly persons offense if it is under 50 grams. Possession of all other drugs; cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and molly, PCP, LSD, methamphetamines, most prescription drugs for which there is no prescription, is an indictable offense, even in the smallest of quantities. Even residue of cocaine, for example, left on the inside of a plastic bag will qualify as possession of the drug as long as there is a sufficient quantity for swabbing and testing. Possession of the substances listed above and any other substance scheduled as I, II, III, and IV, under 2C:35-10, are 3rd degree indictable offenses, which carry a statutory maximum penalty of 5 years in state prison, and a fine of up to $35,000. Possession of a schedule V substances (usually pharmaceuticals in very low concentrations that have little possibility for abuse) is graded as a 4th degree offense, which has a statutory maximum penalty of 18 months in state prison, and a fine of up to $15,000.
The penalty for driving without insurance in New Jersey is severe. In many ways, it is worse than a first offense DWI. A person who is convicted for a first offense of driving their car, or letting someone else drive their car, without insurance, will lose their driving privileges for 1 year, and pay a fine of between $300 and $1,000. The judge may also impose community service. In comparison, even a first offense for a second tier DWI only has a 7 month loss of license. If you’ve been charged with this offense you are likely in disbelief as to how serious the consequences are. As a New Jersey traffic attorney who has defended countless clients in municipal court for this offense, I have mixed feelings about these penalties.