Articles Posted in Criminal Laws Explained

When a defendant is convicted of a crime, the sentencing court will typically assess his or her prior criminal record to determine an appropriate sentence. Further, while the courts often must adhere to sentencing guidelines, they can issue a reduced sentence if they find there are mitigating factors that warrant leniency. Thus, if a court relies on inaccurate information regarding a defendant’s background and history, it can result in a sentencing error and may provide a basis for asking the sentence to be vacated. This was demonstrated in a recent New Jersey case in which the court issued a sentence to a defendant convicted of illegal reentry into the United States based on facts that were inaccurate. If you are charged with a state or federal crime, it is in your best interest to speak to an experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney to consider what defenses you may be able to assert.

Factual and Procedural History  

It is reported that the defendant was arrested in 2018 for illegal reentry into the United States. He pled guilty to his charges. Prior to his 2018 arrest, he had been convicted in March 2001 on drug charges, after which he was removed from the country. He reentered illegally and was convicted of state and federal drug crimes in 2007, after which he was once again deported in 2013. His most recent arrest was after his 2013 return.

Allegedly, during the sentencing hearing, the defendant argued that his most recent return was not to engage in criminal activity, but so that he could assist his wife with their children. The judge, in recounting the defendant’s criminal history, improperly stated that the defendant was convicted of drug crimes after the birth of his children and that he was deported three times for such crimes, rather than two. After his sentence was issued, the defendant appealed, arguing that the errors undermined his request for leniency.

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A confession by a defendant is an extremely powerful aspect of a criminal case. This is why police work so hard to persuade someone to admit to a crime prior to their obtaining an attorney. Tactics to coerce someone into a confession have, in fact, been commonplace since our nation was created and this is why the Fifth Amendment was adopted to preclude the government from forcing citizens to self-incriminate. If you have been charged with a criminal offense and provided a confession prior to your obtaining representation, you definitely want to read this article closely. A lawyer who is knowledgeable and skilled in Miranda Hearings may be able to change the entire complexion of your case. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall possess these attributes with:

  • Over 200 years of collective experience litigating complex suppression issues involving Miranda and other constitutional right violations
  • 10 lawyers that limit their practices exclusively to criminal defense

The recently enacted Criminal Justice Reform Act (CJRA) aimed to enlarge and protect the rights of criminal defendants, in part by reducing and eliminating bail and pretrial containment for non-violent offenders that do not present a risk of harm. As the CJRA is relatively new, its scope and application are still being interpreted by the courts. This was demonstrated in a recent New Jersey appellate case in which the court ruled on the issue of whether the CJRA allowed for criminal contempt charges when a defendant violates the condition of his or her pretrial release. If you are faced with criminal charges, it is critical to retain a zealous New Jersey criminal defense attorney who will work to protect your interests.

Factual History

It is reported that two defendants were arrested and charged with unspecified crimes. They were both released without bail prior to trial, but they were required to comply with certain conditions. Each defendant independently violated one of the conditions of his release, and both were charged with contempt for violation of a court order. The trial courts independently ruled that, under the CJRA, the defendants could not be charged with contempt for violating a release order. The State appealed, and the appellate court reversed, after which the defendants appealed.

Criminal Contempt Under the CJRA

On appeal, the appellate court largely affirmed the trial court rulings. The appellate court noted that when a judge orders conditional pretrial release, the defendant must be notified of the conditions in a clear and specific manner so that the defendant is apprised of what conduct is acceptable. If a court fails to notify a defendant of the repercussions for violating the terms of his or her release, it does not preclude the court from seeking any authorized remedy for the violation.

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If a person is charged with a crime, the State must prove each element of the charge in order to obtain a conviction. While the State may rely on direct and circumstantial evidence in support of its position that a person committed a crime, in most instances, the State is not permitted to introduce evidence of a person’s prior crimes or bad acts to demonstrate that the person is guilty of a current charged offense. Recently, a New Jersey appellate court discussed the prior bad acts exclusion in a case in which the State appealed the trial court’s ruling barring evidence of prior charges. If you are charged with a crime, it is in your best interest to discuss your charges with a capable New Jersey criminal defense attorney to assess what evidence the State may attempt to introduce against you.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with numerous crimes on separate occasions. Specifically, in 2014 the defendant was charged with weapons crimes and receiving stolen property but was ultimately acquitted. The charges arose out of the seizure of a gun from a hidden compartment in the defendant’s dashboard. In 2017, the defendant was charged with numerous weapons and drug offenses, and a warrant again revealed a gun hidden in a secret compartment in the dashboard of the defendant’s car. Prior to trial, the defendant filed a motion asking the court to preclude evidence of the gun found in the hidden compartment as set forth in the 2014 case. The trial court granted the motion, and the State appealed.

Evidence of Prior Crimes and Bad Acts

Under New Jersey law, evidence of prior crimes, bad acts, or wrongs, is generally not admissible unless it is used to demonstrate motive, intent, preparation, opportunity, or the absence of mistake or accident when such issues are relevant to the primary issue in dispute. In other words, it is a rule of exclusion, not inclusion, and courts must exercise caution in deciding whether to admit such evidence, as it has a tendency to be prejudicial. Particularly, evidence suggesting that a defendant committed a prior crime is more likely to persuade a jury that it is probable that a defendant committed the crime with which he or she is currently charged, and a court must carefully analyze whether it should be admitted.

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In New Jersey, people charged with crimes may be able to enter into the pre-trial intervention (PTI) program rather than go through the traditional prosecution process. PTI is not available in all circumstances, however. Instead, certain factors are assessed in determining if PTI is appropriate, as discussed in a recent New Jersey case. If you are accused of committing a crime, it is prudent to speak to a knowledgeable New Jersey criminal defense attorney regarding your available options.

Facts of the Case

Reportedly, the defendant was charged with multiple crimes, including unlawful possession of a knife, terroristic threats, and resisting arrest. The prosecutor that was assigned to the case offered a plea deal to the defendant that required the defendant to apply to PTI and to submit to a mental health evaluation. The defendant then applied to PTI. His application was denied, however, on the grounds that his alleged crime took place in a church, and the PTI director felt that acts that violated the sanctity of churches needed to be deterred.

It is alleged that the State then adopted the PTI director’s findings and cited other factors for the denial of PTI, such as the defendant’s inability to be monitored through PTI. The defendant appealed the denial of PTI, but his appeal was denied. He then pleaded guilty to the resisting arrest charge in exchange for the dismissal of his remaining charges. After his sentencing hearing, he appealed the trial court’s ruling regarding PTI.

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In New Jersey, a person can be held in contempt for failing to pay child support and may be assigned to work release to enforce compliance with the underlying support order. A person assigned to work release for failing to pay child support, who fails to return to the work-release program, cannot be charged with a crime, however, as discussed in a recent case in which the defendant appealed his conviction for escape. If you are charged with a crime due to your failure to comply with a civil order, you should contact an experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney to discuss whether you may be able to have the charges dismissed as improper.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was confined to a work-release program in Bergen County Jail, due to his failure to pay child support. He failed to return to the jail by curfew on two occasions, and he was charged with the crime of escape. He pled guilty to the charges, after which he was sentenced. He subsequently filed a petition for post-conviction relief, arguing his trial counsel was ineffective because he failed to argue that the defendant could not be charged with escape for violating work release assigned due to a civil contempt order and that his sentence was illegal.

Allegedly, the trial judge denied the defendant’s petition without a hearing, noting that the defendant entered a knowing and voluntary plea and that the defendant’s failure to return to the jail met the elements for escape under the relevant statute. The defendant then appealed.

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