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 ›

One of the basic criteria for being relieved of Megan’s Law registration and Parole Supervision for Life requirements is that the movant must have remained offense-free and conviction-free for 15 years from the date of their conviction or the date of release from a State prison facility, whichever is later.  As we have discussed in prior blog entries and on our firm’s website, there is a crucial difference in the wording of the statutes containing this requirement.  The Megan’s Law statute states that the movant must not have “committed an offense” within this 15-year period, while the Parole Supervision for Life statutes says that the movant must not have “committed a crime” during that time.  Arguably, this may mean that someone who was charged with an offense but not convicted of a crime during the relevant time period can be removed from parole supervision, but can still be required to register under Megan’s Law.  It is actually not all that unusual for someone to be removed from PSL, but still be required to register under Megan’s Law.  A Megan’s Law attorney in New Jersey can discuss these distinctions with you in greater detail.

We are Parole Supervision for Life lawyers in New Jersey who represent clients seeking to be removed from these burdensome regimens.  We therefore stay on top of all of the latest developments in the law concerning these issues.  A recent appellate court decision discussed an important issue for individuals who may have encountered problems while on parole supervision, and are now trying to have their registration and supervision obligations terminated.

Many individuals who consult with us concerning a termination motion do not have conventional criminal charges or convictions in any court at any time during the 15-year period.  They have, however, violated their parole and have incurred parole violations.  If the person is adjudicated guilty of a parole violation, their parole may be revoked and they can be required to serve a prison term of at least twelve months.  As New Jersey parole violation attorneys, we frequently represent such clients in violation hearings before the parole board. Continue reading ›

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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