As gun permit attorneys in New Jersey, we stay abreast of all the latest developments in this complex area of the law, which is constantly changing.  A recent directive from the Courts, dated December 22, 2022, provides new information that applicants for firearms purchaser identification cards, handgun purchase permits, and carry permits, need to know.

Governor Murphy has signed new laws that amend several of the State’s statutes that regulate the purchase and ownership of firearms.  These amendments were required by the recent United States Supreme Court decision in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, decided earlier this year.  The amendments are effective immediately.

The major changes to the law (and those that our clients seem most concerned about) involve carry permits.  The amendments remove the New Jersey Courts from the initial decision making process concerning applications for carry permits.  State law previously required an applicant to submit a written certification of ‘justifiable need’ to the reviewing law enforcement officer as part of the carry permit application process.  If the the law enforcement officer approved the application and certification, it would be presented to a Superior Court judge for further review.  If the applicant successfully demonstrated, among other things, a ‘justifiable need’ to carry a handgun in accordance with applicable law, the judge would approve the application and issue the permit.  As a result of the Bruen decision, this procedure was deemed unconstitutional; thus, the ‘justifiable need’ requirement has been eliminated and the Court is no longer part of the initial application and issuance process for carry permits. Continue reading ›

One of the first major events following conviction for a Megan’s Law offense is the assignment of a Megan’s Law tier.  There are three tiers, one for “low”; two for “moderate”, and three for “high”.  The tier score is based upon an assessment of the defendant using the Registrant Risk Assessment Scale or RRAS.  The purpose of the tiering is to assess the defendant’s risk of engaging in sexually inappropriate behaviors in the future.  The tier classification is important because it will set the level of notification of the defendant’s presence in the community where they live.  Generally speaking, defendants in the moderate or high tier are viewed as presenting an increased risk of re-offending; thus, placement in these tiers can result in local institutions, such as schools, receiving notification of the defendant’s presence in the area.  It can also result in the defendant’s information being posted on the internet.  A Megan’s Law attorney in New Jersey can answer questions concerning a defendant’s tier assignment and notification.

The RRAS is far from perfect.  It was created in the 1990’s, based upon whatever information was then available concerning sex offenses and sex offenders.  Much more is currently known about defendants who have been convicted of these offenses as well as the overall functioning of the Megan’s Law registration system, but the RRAS has not really changed.  It appears to have value in determining an individual defendant’s risk level when they are sentenced, but has relatively little value in predicting long-term behavior.  This is significant, since the RRAS does not account for such crucial factors as the amount of time the defendant has remained offense-free while present in the community.  There is now considerable data to support the conclusion that a defendant’s age and amount of time living in the community with no new charges correlates with a reduced risk of re-offense.  Thus, the value of the RRAS as a predictive tool is somewhat limited.

Nevertheless, New Jersey continues to use the RRAS to assess risk of re-offense and the corresponding level of community notification, and a defendant’s scoring is of great concern.  The scoring is based upon thirteen factors divided into four areas.  The first is “seriousness of offense”, which includes the degree of force used; the degree of contact; and the victim’s age.  The next area concerns the defendant’s “offense history”, which includes victim selection; number of offenses or victims; the duration of the offense behavior; the length of time since the defendant’s last offense; and the defendant’s history of anti-social acts.  The third area concerns “offender characteristics”, and includes the defendant’s response to sex offender treatment; and the defendant’s substance abuse history.  The final area focuses on “community support”, and includes therapeutic support; residential support; and employment or education stability.  The defendant is scored in each of these 13 areas and the points are then totaled up.  A score of 0 to 36 places the defendant in the low tier.  A score of 37 to 73 places the defendant in the moderate tier.  A score of 74 to 111 places the defendant in the high tier.  Some of these factors are “static”, which means the scores will never change.  Others are considered “dynamic” factors, which can be reduced with supporting information.  A Megan’s Law attorney in New Jersey can tell you if your score, and your tiering, can be reduced, thereby placing you in a lower tier with less extensive notification.

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We are New Jersey Megan’s Law lawyers who frequently prepare, file and argue motions for termination of Megan’s Law registration obligations, as well as termination of parole supervision for life or community supervision for life requirements.  As parole supervision for life lawyers in New Brunswick, New Jersey, we represent clients in every New Jersey county who are seeking to bring their registration and supervision nightmares to an end.  We also monitor the most recent developments in this area of the law, so as to always be aware of current trends and issues.

The basic requirements for termination of Megan’s Law and parole supervision for life are fairly straight-forward, at least on the surface.  Generally speaking, those seeking termination of their Megan’s Law registration requirement must satisfy three criteria.  First, the applicant must not have been convicted of aggravated sexual assault, or sexual assault involving force or coercion.  Next, at least 15 years must have transpired since the later of the date of the applicant’s conviction (measured from the date of sentencing), or date of release from prison, and the applicant must have remained offense-free during that 15-year period.  Finally, the applicant must be able to show that they are not likely to pose a threat to the safety of others.  This last showing is made by means of a psychological evaluation that is submitted with the motion papers.    The evaluation is prepared by a forensic psychologist who is specifically trained to do this work, and can prepare a report designed to satisfy the concerns of judges and prosecutors.  An experienced Megan’s Law attorney in New Jersey can tell you if you meet these criteria given the facts and circumstances of your unique situation.

The requirements for terminating parole supervision for life are similar.  The applicant must be able to show that they have not committed a crime during the 15-year period described above, and must also show that they will not be a danger to the community if they are released from parole supervision.  A parole supervision for life attorney in New Jersey can explain how these criteria apply to your case.

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According to a recent Bureau of Justice Statistics report, the number of individuals held in state or federal prisons in the United States declined 15% from 2019 to 2020, which appears to be the latest time period for which data is available.  Most jurisdictions showed declines ranging from 7% to 31%   The number of individuals receiving sentences exceeding a year in either state or federal prison also declined.

The problem is that the COVID pandemic was largely responsible for the decline in incarceration at both the state and federal level.  Courts nationwide substantially altered their operations for either part or all of 2020.  There were significant delays in trials and/or sentencing proceedings for defendants generally.  This was reflected in a 40% decrease in admissions to both state and federal facilities from 2019.

As of the end of 2020, the number of state or federal prisoners had decreased by 15% from 2019, and by 25% from 2009, which is the year the number of inmates in the United States peaked.  Nine states showed decreases in the number of incarcerated individuals of at least 20% from 2019 to 2020.  The prison populations of California and Texas, as well as the number of individuals in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, each declined by more than 22,500 from 2019 to 2020.  This accounted for 33% of the total prison population decrease.

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A recent United States Supreme Court decision has made it much easier to obtain a carry permit in New Jersey.  Our firm represents responsible gun owners in a variety of gun permit matters, so this is an area of law that we monitor closely.  What follows is a non-exhaustive list of pointers for tackling the application process, as well as some other thoughts to be kept in mind by individuals seeking to carry a gun for personal protection.

Please note that the following instructions are the same for initial and renewal applications.

First, applicants must apply in person.  Out-of-State residents should apply at the non-toll road State police barracks closest to their residence.  In-State residents should apply at their local police department.  In any case, call the local police department or barracks before going there – do not just show up.

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A recent report issued on November 10, 2022 by the New Jersey Office of the State Comptroller found various flaws in the training provided to New Jersey State Police (“NJSP”) officers.  Deficiencies in officer training is an issue that must concern everyone.  Here are some of the issues discussed in the report.:

  •  Training on such issues as the “Use of Force” policy deviated from the established curriculum, and instructors who were observed during training sessions appeared to have no interest in the training.  At least one instructor described sections of courses dealing with issues such as culture and diversity in very negative terms.  Another instructor reduced the time allotted to discuss prejudice and discrimination, and omitted a video on hate crimes that was to be shown as part of the course.
  •  Representatives of the NJSP Training Bureau are supposed to observe instructors to determine whether training is being presented appropriately, and to identify areas where training can be improved.  Feedback from instructors indicated a lack of consistency in how and/or when such evaluations would be conducted.
  • There are supposed to be formal eligibility and selection criteria for instructors.  Some instructors are being allowed to provide training without first demonstrating that they meet these criteria by, for example, submitting resumes or being interviewed.
  • NJSP does not ensure that officers who are promoted complete leadership training courses within six months of their promotion.  Troopers who are promoted are supposed to complete rank-specific training within that time period.
  • Academy recruits are not asked for feedback concerning specific courses in the form of course evaluations.
  • NJSP lesson plans for specific courses fail to adhere to best practices for adult learning.
  • NJSP has no policy or practice of regularly reviewing lesson plans and course materials.

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Statements to law enforcement are a routine part of many criminal investigations.  The atmosphere in which a statement is taken is pretty grim.  A suspect is placed in an interview room which, in itself, is an inherently coercive environment.  These rooms are typically small and engender a sense of being cut off and isolated.  Most statements are typically taken by at least two law enforcement officers, so the suspect being interviewed will naturally feel outnumbered.  Requests by the suspect during the interview to seek advice from others, such as family members, are denied.  In New Jersey, statements are typically recorded in video format.  This was not always the case – video recordings became part of the interview procedure because of ongoing complaints concerning abusive tactics by officers conducting the questioning.

But it gets worse than this.  Many people think that they can handle themselves in the interview room by simply explaining the underlying situation to the officers present without saying anything that will ultimately undermine their position in any resulting case, and that they will then be allowed to simply leave the facility without being arrested.  Generally speaking, nothing can be further from the truth.  The officers taking the statement are trained to elicit damaging information from the person being questioned.  Further, they have probably already interviewed other people involved in the investigation such as purported victims, and know what they are looking for when it comes time to interview subjects or targets.  Thus, alone in an unfamiliar environment, outnumbered, and confronted with officers who have been taught to obtain damaging admissions of wrongdoing and already know something about the underlying facts, many people bury themselves without even realizing it.  As a New Jersey criminal defense lawyer, I confront these issues regularly.

A defendant’s statement to law enforcement almost always makes it more difficult to defend the case.  The solution to the problems that statements create is simple.  Don’t give a statement.  A suspect in a criminal case does not have to answer questions from investigating officers, and should refuse to speak to the officers conducting the questioning.  Although the suspect will almost certainly be arrested and charged, they have done nothing to strengthen the case against them by giving a statement.

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We are in the midst of the midterm elections, and abortion was a central issue because of the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade.  This was obviously on the front burner this election season because of the effect on reproductive and privacy rights.  But the overturning of Roe presents another issue that has been touched upon in the media, but may actually be more significant than the elimination of this Constitutional right that has been law for decades.

The basic course in Constitutional Law is a staple of the first year law school curriculum.  Indeed, it is probably the favorite of most, if not all, new law school students.  It touches on our nation’s history, current events and the operations of our government, and explores issues that are of considerable significance to every American citizen.  Anyone who follows world politics knows that no other country has anything like this extremely unique institution.  One of the points that is emphasized in this course is the somewhat obvious fact that our Supreme Court does not have an army or law enforcement apparatus that may be called upon to enforce its decisions.  The strength of the Court’s decisions and the level of seriousness with which they are viewed and accepted as law is a function of the Court’s credibility.  If the Court is not viewed as a credible institution, its decisions could be ignored, and even laughed at.  As has been reflected in the media, the current Court has lost a substantial amount of credibility in the eyes of many Americans for several reasons.

First, the importance and role of precedent is a hallmark of American jurisprudence.  The law is not supposed to be based on surprises but must instead, at least to some extent, be predictable.  Taking a precedent like Roe that has been the law of this country for decades and overturning it as was done is anything but predictable.  In fact, there were media reports that Chief Justice Roberts, who was not a fan of Roe, favored a more incremental approach to pulling back on it.  Obviously, this was not what happened, and the result was the ongoing scramble among the various states to make decisions concerning the extent to which the right to choose will be protected.

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Many people contact our firm to learn about terminating their obligations under Megan’s Law and Community Supervision for Life or Parole Supervision for Life (CSL/PSL).  We are known throughout the State for representing clients seeking termination of these burdensome, and frequently useless, obligations.  There is information on the firm’s website concerning the criteria for terminating these incredibly burdensome requirements, which we encourage all those viewing us online to read.  However, if you are saddled with Megan’s and CSL or PSL obligations, and you are tired of the ways they are forcing you to place your life on hold, we encourage you to continue reading.  The information below, as well as that on our main site, is very general and should be viewed only as a starting point.  It is, however, a good place to begin.  Bear in mind, however, that you must contact a seasoned Megan’s Law attorney in New Jersey for counseling and advice that meets your unique needs.

It’s hard to believe, but the nightmares that are Megan’s Law and CSL/PSL have been around since 1994.  For one thing, this means that the number of defendants who are eligible to have their obligations terminated is growing.  One would think that given the amount of time these laws have been in effect, there would have been some sort of study or review concerning their effectiveness.  To this writer’s knowledge, however, no such study has ever been produced or even attempted.  This is significant not only because of the truly detrimental effect these statutes have on people’s lives, but because the registration and supervision systems cost money to administer and sap State resources that may be put to better use elsewhere.

In any event, every termination motion starts with information.  Each county prosecutor’s office has a Megan’s Law unit.  The first step Megan’s Law counsel must take after meeting with the registrant/parolee is to contact that unit to obtain a copy of the relevant discovery.  If someone was convicted in one New Jersey county but has since moved to another New Jersey county, the correct office to contact is the one in the county where the registrant/parolee currently resides.  A termination motion must also be filed in the county of residence, not the county of conviction.  A registrant/parolee who has moved out of State must obtain their discovery and file their motion in the New Jersey county of conviction.  Once obtained, the discovery must then be reviewed by a New Jersey parole supervision for life attorney to ascertain whether all relevant requirements for termination are met, and for information that must be included in the motion papers.

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The new marijuana legalization/decriminalization laws raise many questions that will be answered only with the passage of time and experience.  Here are some responses to certain questions that will probably arise very quickly:

What should an officer do if they smell marijuana coming from a vehicle during a motor vehicle stop? First, the officer should take the traditional investigative steps to determine if there is probable cause to believe that the driver is operating the vehicle while under the influence, in violation of N.J.S.A. 39:4-50. If so, the driver may be arrested and the vehicle may be searched. If the driver is not found to be under the influence, the new laws are clear that the odor of marijuana, either burned or raw, by itself does not establish reasonable suspicion to justify a continued stop, nor probable cause to conduct a search of the vehicle or the person, in a marijuana possession case or even in a low-level (fourth-degree) possession with intent to distribute marijuana case. As a result, the vehicle and occupants must be released once the initial reason for the stop has been addressed.

May an officer initiate or continue a pedestrian stop of an individual based on the officer detecting the odor of marijuana? No, the new laws are clear that the odor of marijuana, either burned or raw, by itself does not establish reasonable suspicion to justify or continue a pedestrian stop. In addition, the odor of marijuana by itself does not establish probable cause to conduct a search in a marijuana possession case or even a low-level (fourth-degree) possession with intent to distribute marijuana case. The age of the person being stopped is irrelevant in these situations.

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