CORONAVIRUS UPDATE: We are offering free Video Chat services through all Apple, Android and Skype devices. This includes free consultations.

Articles Posted in Criminal Defense

The New Jersey Municipal Court will start to slowly reopen for business on May 11, 2020. The Courts will be conducting a limited amount of appearances for those matters that can potentially be resolved via phone and video conference. The amount and types of cases that the courts will hear will be determined by the individuals court’s technological abilities. This means that some courts may resolve many cases and some may resolve none.

Regardless, over the course of the last few weeks, in anticipation of this, I have received calls from several prosecutors from several different municipal courts, including Union, East Brunswick, Palisades Interstate Court, and Elizabeth, to name a few. These negotiations over the phone have really paid off and I was able to negotiate some very good plea agreements for my clients. The charges included traffic matters, such as driving without insurance, speeding, driving while suspended or revoked, careless driving with an accident and without and leaving the scene of an accident. Additionally, I was able to resolve a few criminal cases too involving possession of marijuana under 50 grams of and possession of CDS in a motor vehicle.

Superior Courts have been ahead of the municipal courts in having virtual court sessions. The more serious drug cases and crimes are at the Superior Court level and I have been doing a good amount of virtual court appearances over the last month.

I was contacted by several municipal prosecutors this work asking if we could work out some of my existing client’s cases by something called a plea by affidavit. This mechanism is typically only used for out of state residents or those who do not have the ability to come to court. As part of a plea by affidavit, there would typically be a requirements that the defendant provide reasons in a certification about why it would be a hardship for that person to come to court.

Obviously, given the covid 19 outbreak, Courts are not requiring such a thing for some matters. Most of the calls that I received were for traffic related offenses other than DWI. However, I suspect that in the coming weeks there will a push to resolve existing municipal court matters, including disorderly persons offenses (simple assault, marijuana possession, shoplifting,etc.) through a plea by affidavit. Otherwise the backlog of cases could get out of hand for the municipal court.

That being said, I think that there is a great opportunity for many of these cases to resolve very favorably for my clients and I will continue to push for this sort of resolution. In addition, just because the courts are closed does not mead that the police have stopped working. Over the course of the last few weeks, I have seen many DWI, domestic violence, shoplifting, harassment and drug arrest, just to name a few. I have been consulting with new and existing clients. I have been communicating with police records on my new cases and police records in many jurisdictions is providing discovery which give me the ability to work towards a resolution of the case.

The answer is it depends. The municipal courts are not holding court sessions. Municipal courts are responsible for traffic violations including DWI and disorderly persons criminal offenses (misdemeanors). They are issuing future court dates but are also trying to set up virtual court to expedite those dates. If you have a traffic charge or disorderly persons criminal offense violation like possession of less than 50 grams of marijuana or DWI, then your court date may be a few months out, but it will not go away. It is still important to address it sooner rather than later and begin the process. Police records are still producing discovery and all other documents and I expect that that courts will expecting litigants to be at least somewhat prepared to go. I think those that are ready, and willing to proceed early on when sessions resume may get favorable deals, since they will not be contributing to the municipal court backlog.

Superior Court, Criminal Division, is quickly making progress with virtual court via video. These courts are responsible for more serious offenses called indictable offenses. Indictable offenses are also called felony offenses. First, Second, Third and Fourth degree indictable offenses are the responsibility of the Superior Court. Drug possession and distribution charges for heroin, cocaine, prescription pills, theft and shop lifting over $500, aggravated assault, weapons and guns charges, eluding the police, robbery, terroristic threats, sex assault, etc. are a few examples of these types of offenses.   I personally handled three matters this week via video court, 2 in Union County and one in Morris. It was actually pretty seamless.  I think that as the weeks progress, we will see a marked increase in the number of cases handles by the courts and the timelines moving up considerably. Likewise, I think in the interim, there will be a good opportunity to resolve cases favorably. The reason I say this is because I believe that the courts do not want to put people in jail right now. They want a reason to not put them in jail.

I think that I have a window to get really good results if I can get cases hear. For example, I had a client who was facing two First Degree count of robbery, with a bad prior record, looking at an extended term, possibly 30 years. I was able to get him a 5 flat sentence and kept him eligible for ISP, intensive supervision program. He already had 8 months in, he will likely be out as soon as he gets in. I highly doubt this would have happened two weeks ago.

Assault charges are a serious matter that often are the result of the most trivial encounters. A friendly debate at a local bar between a New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils fan gone awry or a shouting match at a wedding afterparty that went too far. You may have been the victim, the target of an obnoxious individual, and had no choice but to use force to defend yourself. All of these scenarios can lead to assault charges under the New Jersey Criminal Code.

If charged with N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1A Simple Assault, the penalties under the New Jersey Criminal Code can be severe. Along with fines of up to $1,000 and jail time of up to 6 months, the most serious consequence under N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1A is a guilty plea that will result in a criminal record. Having a Simple Assault charge on your criminal record has a very negative effect on future employment and educational opportunities and will affect you for the rest of your life.

The statute which defines Simple Assault provides that: A person commits a Simple Assault if he attempts to cause or purposely, knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury to another. Bodily injury is defined as physical pain, illness or any impairment of the physical condition.

New Jersey Police departments claim they can see and smell everything. Using skills usually reserved for a Marvel superhero, law enforcement routinely claims they can see drugs through a closed container, smell marijuana through a brick house miles away, or detect the odor of marijuana from a vaporizer pen used solely for cigarettes.

 If you have been the victim of a superman cop stop, whereby plain smell or plain view was the basis for the search and subsequent seizure of contraband on your person, seasoned criminal defense attorneys can help.

 One of the most used exceptions to the warrant requirement is the plain view exception. In New Jersey, the plain view exception to warrant requirement rule can be applied to four different sensory perceptions including view, smell, sound, and touch. The plain view doctrine is used in cases involving guns and drugs routinely, but there are requirements that need to be fulfilled for the exception to be deemed reasonable.

Shoplifting under N.J.S.A. 2C:20-11 of the New Jersey Criminal code is one of the most common crimes committed in the state of New Jersey, and can often times be accused over mistake of fact or misunderstanding between vendor and customer. Specifically, there have been a large number of cases in recent years stemming from the popular women’s cosmetics store Sephora. The high number of cases stemming from this vendor revolve around its policies concerning free samples, which are not followed strictly by their sales employees, but can be enforced stingily by their anti-theft team.

Title 2c of the New Jersey Criminal code outlines shoplifting in its entirety as one of six offenses; however, we will be looking at the statute as it deals with purpose or intent. Specifically did you mean to take something and not pay for it? What that your intent? N.J.S.A 2C:20-11b(2), outlines the types of cases accused shoplifters generally encounter at Sephora. This section of the statute outlines that it is considered shoplifting,

“(2) For any person purposely to conceal upon his person or otherwise any merchandise offered for sale by any store or other retail mercantile establishment with the intention of depriving the merchant of the processes, use or benefit of such merchandise or converting the same to the use of such person without paying to the merchant the value thereof.”

Constitutionally protected privacy interests are enshrined in the 4th Amendment protection against warrantless searches and seizures as well as Article I, Paragraph 7 of the New Jersey State Constitution. One key exception to the warrant requirement, as well as the requirement for probable cause precedent to the execution of a search, is voluntary consent knowingly waived by a party with authority to search. For a person to be considered a valid third party that can consent to a search of property he or she must meet a few requirements:

·         The area being searched is shared with the suspect and the third party.

·         The third party has control over the shared area- i.e., they have a key to such areas or their name is listed on the lease.

The Fourth Amendment of the constitution protects people from unreasonable search and seizures, but the law is not as clear-cut in some particular circumstances.  One grey area in search and seizure law involves searches conducted at student housing owned by colleges.  College campuses are unique in that they create their own set of laws and policies that their students need to abide by while attending the school. Universities generally have very strict policies, including rules that could be seen as infringing on the students 4th Amendment rights.  Is it reasonable for universities to be able to conduct warrantless search and seizures on campus living facilities? The 4th Amendment protects people from unreasonable search and seizures, but is it considered reasonable for universities to be able to conduct random searches of students living on campus? There are two primary means by which universities may bypass a students Fourth Amendment right:

1.      Courts deem attending a university and residing in a school owned building as a voluntary waiver to follow the university polices and laws. Student routinely sign contracts consenting to random searches by school officials when living in a school owned facility.

2.      The University’s inherent duty to keep the student’s facilities safe with inspections, i.e. checking fire alarms systems give schools a regulatory exemption to conduct warrantless searches.

Although shoplifting is widely thought of as a petty offense and is generally associated with troublesome adolescents or teenagers, it can be a serious crime under Title 2c of the New Jersey Criminal Code, that can carry significant consequences. In the state of New Jersey, shoplifting under N.J.S.A. 2c:20-11, is a somewhat broadly defined offense that, if committed, can result in punishments as minimal as community service and as severe as multiple years in prison, not to mention possible civil action. Shoplifting is categorized in six types of offenses, all of which can constitute charges ranging anywhere from a second-degree crime to a disorderly persons offense. There are certain requirements of proof the state has to deliver, and multiple defenses, some of which bode more effectively than others in shoplifting cases.

The term “shoplifting” is defined in full in N.J.S.A. 2C:20-11 as one of six acts. To be issued a charge of shoplifting, one of the six following actions are to have been accused.

(1)    Purposeful removal of merchandise from any merchant or vendor without payment of full retail value.

If charged with drug possession/Controlled Dangerous Substance (“CDS”) possession in a vehicle, the penalty may be severe.  In addition to fines which are upwards of $50.00, there is a mandatory two-year loss of license. This offense is almost always coupled with criminal drug charges such as N.J.S.A 2C:35:10(a)(4) – Marijuana Possession – and N.J.S.A 2C:36-2 – Drug Paraphernalia Possession.

The state must prove multiple elements to obtain a conviction for N.J.S.A. 39:4-49.1 Possession of CDS in a motor vehicle. These elements include:

·         Driver operated a motor vehicle

Contact Information