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Criminal attorneys who practice in both federal and state court regularly experience the differences between the two systems.  In the federal system, hearings are scheduled by specific date and time.  In other words, the attorneys receive dates and times from the court staff telling them when they are to appear for their hearing.  Typically, nobody else is present in the courtroom.  The hearing is held, the judge either issues a decision or further instructions, and everyone moves on from there.

The state system is very different.  Criminal judges have lists of matters that are scheduled for a given date, most often a Monday or a Friday.  Most of these matters consist of arraignments, sentencing hearings, and relatively simple status conferences.  Any given judge could have several dozen matters scheduled for the same time slot on one of those days, usually 9:00 am.  The courtrooms and hallways are crowded with attorneys and defendants waiting to be heard, while the judge makes their way through the list.  Many judges complete their list by the 12:30 lunch break.  Matters unheard in the morning are held over until the afternoon, or given a new date.  This means that attorneys, many of whom have to tend to other matters in other counties, are therefore detained in that court until they are heard or rescheduled, leaving other clients in other courts to simply sit and wait, and preventing the judges in the other counties from properly managing their list.

Numerous changes were implemented in the state system at the start of the pandemic with an eye toward meeting COVID safety requirements.  Probably the most revolutionary change was the implementation of Zoom for court hearings.  Zoom changed many things.  It enabled state court staff to break up a long and congested calendar into specific time slots, each of which contained a relatively small number of matters.  Defense attorneys and prosecutors had a better idea of when their appearance in court was actually necessary.  Attorneys could sit in their offices and transact other business while waiting for their matter to be called, rather then wasting time sitting in the back of a courtroom, or driving between counties.  Further, defense attorneys no longer had to devote large blocks of time to travel significant distances to cover a hearing that typically lasted between five and ten minutes.

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Justice Clarence Thomas is in the news again.  I don’t know if there has ever been a United States Supreme Court justice that has had so much media focus.  And, as is usually the case with Justice Thomas, it’s negative.

Harlan Crow is a Texas real estate billionaire.  He likes to travel to exotic destinations such as Indonesia and Bohemian Grove, an exclusive retreat in Northern California.  He also owns a 105-acre lakeside retreat in the Adirondack mountains.  Mr. Crow is also very active in conservative politics, making donations to all kinds of conservative causes, including conservative republican politicians and the Federalist Society.

Mr. Crow apparently does not like to travel to these places alone, so he takes Justice Thomas and his wife, Ginny, with him.  Indeed, this has been going on for years.  In addition to the trips (which the overwhelming majority of Americans could never afford), Mr. Crow likes to purchase gifts for Justice Thomas.  Some of these include a Bible previously owned by Frederick Douglas (estimated value – $19,000.00), and a bust of Abraham Lincoln (estimated value – $15,000.00).  He also donated $175,000.00 to name a wing after Justice Thomas in the library of the latter’s childhood home.  He also purchased real estate owned by Justice Thomas in Savannah, Georgia.  The Justice and his family received $133,000.00 for the property.  Mr. Crow has indicted that he wants to one day construct a museum on the site to tell the Justice’s story.

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Recent media have contained numerous stories about Tyre Nichols, who was savagely beaten to death by Memphis police officers.  Over the last several years, police misconduct has received considerable media attention, as it should.  However, while police misconduct obviously continues to be a significant criminal justice problem, recent events in a New York State courtroom highlight another problem that negatively affects the integrity of our criminal justice system.

Joseph Franco, a former New York City narcotics detective, was charged in 2019 with perjury and other crimes stemming from his 20-year involvement with collecting evidence of drug cases in Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Bronx.  Between 500 and 600 convictions in these boroughs, all of which stemmed from his work, were overturned.  Mr. Franco’s case recently proceeded to trial, which a New York State Judge short-circuited by dismissing the charges with prejudice because of prosecutorial misconduct.

The prosecutors, who worked in the Police Accountability Unit in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, wrongfully withheld evidence from the defense.  This evidence included surveillance videos, communications between prosecutors, investigative memos, and the contents of confiscated cellphones.  There were also several hundred audio files of interviews of a prosecution witness, which were recorded while she was held at Rikers Island.  The existence of this evidence apparently came to light after Mr. Franco’s trial had begun.  The Judge found that prosecutors had failed to turn over evidence to Mr. Franco’s attorneys on three separate occasions, and held that this was a major ethics violation warranting dismissal.  Since the dismissal was with prejudice, the Manhattan DA will not be able to prosecute Mr. Franco again on the underlying charges. Continue reading ›

A recent decision of the Superior Court’s Appellate Division discussed the grading of shoplifting offenses.  This is important for anyone who has been charged with shoplifting, which is one of the more common offenses heard in New Jersey’s municipal courts.  As shoplifting lawyers in New Jersey, we closely track decisions concerning this offense.

Under our criminal code as currently written, shoplifting will be considered a third degree offense “if the full retail value of the merchandise exceeds $500.00 but is less than $75,000.00”.  Shoplifting is a fourth degree offense “if the full retail value of the merchandise is at least $200.00 but does not exceed $500.00.”  The statute defines “full retail value” as “the merchant’s stated or advertised price of the merchandise”.

While, as noted above, shoplifting offenses are typically heard in the municipal court of the municipality where the shoplifting occurred, it is always possible for these case to be heard in the Superior Court if the dollar amount brings the charge to the level of a third or fourth degree offense.  This is significant since the charge is then treated as an indictable (e.g., felony) matter.  A third degree indictable charge can carry a state prison sentence of between three and five years, and fourth degree indictable charge can result in a state prison sentence of up to 18 months.  Only a New Jersey shoplifting attorney can review the facts of your case and explain what your actual exposure may be. Continue reading ›

We are New Jersey parole violation attorneys who represent many parolees charged with violating the terms and conditions of their parole.  The violation process can be very confusing and intimidating, particularly to a parolee facing their first violation.  As such, we thought it would be helpful to parolees and their families to present a general overview of the parole violation process.  As noted, the discussion below is very general; bear in mind that the best way to understand any individual violation matter is to consult with a parole violation lawyer in New Jersey.

The violation process starts with an arrest and a charge.  Oftentimes, a parole officer will learn of facts indicating that what they view as a serious violation has been committed, and will then direct the parolee to report to the parole office.  The parolee will be questioned in the office, and will almost certainly be asked to give a statement admitting to the facts underlying the violation.  It is almost certainly not in the parolee’s interest to give such a statement.  The fact is that a decision was probably made before they arrived to charge them with a violation and take them into custody, and this will occur regardless of whether or not they give a statement.  Any statement given will just be used against them at a subsequent violation hearing.  Therefore, the best course of action is to say nothing and be taken into custody.  This sounds harsh; however, the absence of a statement will make it that much more difficult for parole to prove the facts underlying the charges.

Some parolees attempt to represent themselves at hearings.  In our opinion, this is a mistake since the parolee will probably lack the skills to effectively cross-examine the parole officer who will be the primary witness against them, or to know when and how to raise objections.  The best chance of success at a hearing comes with representation by a New Jersey parole violation lawyer at all phases of the violation process. Continue reading ›

If you are required to register as a sex offender, there are certain rules and procedures you need to remember at all times.  Failure to register properly can result in a charge for an indictable offense.  If you are charged and convicted, you may never be relieved of your registration and supervision obligations, even if you meet all of the other requirements.  As New Jersey Megan’s Law attorneys, we are fully familiar with these obligations, and frequently defend those accused of violating them.  What follows is a brief summary of some of the more common registration procedures and issues.  Since every case is different, a Megan’s Law lawyer in New Jersey should be consulted concerning unique issues and situations.

As a general rule, registration involves notifying the local police department that the offender resides, or intends to reside, in that municipality.  Offenders who have been incarcerated must register prior to their release.  If a New Jersey offender works or goes to school out of State but still resides in New Jersey, they are still required to register in the State where they work or go to school, following all non-resident registration procedures.  Offenders who come to New Jersey from other States must notify the police department, or the New Jersey State Police, where they are going to reside within 10 days of arriving here.  This time frame also applies to offenders who are moving to another municipality.  Like offenders moving to New Jersey from another State, they have 10 days to notify the local police department that they now live there.

Offenders must re-register and verify their address with the local police department on an annual basis.  The time frame for this requirement is measured from the date of the offender’s initial registration or most recent re-registration resulting from a change of address, and not from the date that the offender first appeared at the police department to verify their address.  If the offender was found to be repetitive and compulsive and served a sentenced at the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center in Avenel (“ADTC”), they must verify their address with local law enforcement every 90 days. Continue reading ›

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