New Jersey Criminal Defense Law Blog

New Jersey Criminal Defense Law Blog

Prostitution Advertising Triggers Lawsuit

It was reported last week that a Federal lawsuit had been filed by the Cook County Sheriff against Craigslist.  The lawsuit alleges that Craigslist has effectively created the largest source for soliciting and/or promoting prostitution in the United States.  It is important to emphasize that this is a lawsuit and not a criminal proceeding.  No charges for promoting prostitution or solicitation have been filed, nor are any contemplated.

Federal law immunizes online advertisers from liability stemming from inappropriate ads placed on their sites provided a proper disclaimer is published on the site.  The lawsuit alleges Craigslist repeatedly ignored notices that the site was being used for purposes of solicitation and to promote prostitution.  Cook County claims that these actions negate Craigslist’s shield under the law.

Our law firm includes a team of NJ Prostitution Defense Lawyers and I have to admit that Craigslist is clearly a primary source for online solicitation.  There are also other portals on the site which arguable give rise to New Jersey Lewdness Charges.  The fact remains, however, that the site is explicitly limited to adults and that Craigslist has no role in the conduct beyond allowing placement of ads.  While it is obvious that the intention of the advertising is to promote prostitution, Federal law affords broad immunity to an entity like Craigslist.  I have serious doubts that these claims will result in any government action against Craigslist.

By |2012-06-07T20:05:27+00:00June 7, 2012|General Criminal|Comments Off on Prostitution Advertising Triggers Lawsuit

West Long Branch Nearing Completion of Police Station

The Borough of West Long Branch embarked on an aggressive expansion of its police facility last year. A new police station is currently in the process of construction just behind the West Long Branch Municipal Court on Broadway. The projected final cost of the station is approximately $3,000,000.

One might ask why I would report on this news? The honest truth is that I anticipate an increased “police presence” in future months to which the public should be mindful.  While the West Long Branch Municipal Court is already busy, presiding over not only tickets and criminal complaints issued in the community, but all those issued by the university police at Monmouth University as well.  This includes all of the underage drinking, possession of alcohol by a minor,  disorderly persons and marijuana possession charges issued at the college. Now that the town has spent so much money on a new headquarters, you can fully expect the volume of charges heard in West Long Branch Municipal Court to grow. Those who are easy targets, including college students, should keep this heads up in mind.

By |2012-06-07T20:05:24+00:00June 7, 2012|General Criminal|Comments Off on West Long Branch Nearing Completion of Police Station

NJ Harassment Cases Are Very Fact Sensitive

One of the more sketchy criminal offenses our NJ defense lawyers handle are harassment charges.  The conduct prohibited by the harassment statute is rather abstract and these cases therefore tend to be very fact sensitive. There is also an element of subjectivity which frequently comes into play in the defense of NJ harassment cases.  To better understand this dynamic, we need to review the NJ harassment law.

N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4, titled “Harassment”, prohibits individuals from making communications anonymously, at extremely inconvenient hours or that are offensively course, and with the purpose to harass.  The statute also criminalizes conduct committed for the purpose to harass which is alarming or seriously annoying. The first pedigree of NJ harassment involves communications including verbal, written, and electronic (e.g. telephone, computer, or other data transmission).  Whether a communication constitutes harassment depends on the prior course of the parties, the setting of the utterance, and the gender, age and occupation of the person to whom the utterance was passed.  A communication may be harassing depending on the sensitivity of one individual yet not be harassment to another.  What is pivotal is that it was actually harassing to the individual and that the communicator intended the communication to be harassing. The second form of NJ harassment involves conduct as opposed to communication.  In other words, what we are now speaking of is harassing behavior. To be actionable under N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4, the conduct must be alarming or seriously annoying.  A minor disturbance does not constitute a violation insofar as the annoyance must be either “serious” or alarming.

One can see that the statute is quite broad, encompassing “communications”, without specifying exactly what “words” or “types” of communications are taboo.  In the same instances, the law indicates that the subjective sensitivities of the victim has some relevance.  These dynamics of the law make for some rather wide ranging and disparate decisions by our Courts.  We find that it is therefore crucial that all of the important facts and arguments be made as cogently as possible otherwise an erroneous interpretation of the facts (i.e. a conviction) is of greater possibility.  Our NJ Harassment Defense Attorneys are experienced in handling these cases and always take advantage of the opportunity to clarify the facts and case law such that a harassment conviction is avoided.

By |2012-06-07T20:05:23+00:00June 7, 2012|General Criminal|Comments Off on NJ Harassment Cases Are Very Fact Sensitive

Felony Offenses in New Jersey

The framework for classifying criminal charges in NJ does not follow the traditional approach of many states. Most jurisdictions categorize crimes in terms of Misdemeanor and Felony Offenses. Our criminal code does not subscribe to this approach and, instead, speaks in terms of Indictable Crimes and Disorderly Persons Offenses.

A felony is typically viewed as any charge that involves a potential period of incarceration of more than six (6) months. Under New Jersey law, this would include First Degree, Second Degree, Third Degree, and Fourth Degree crimes. All of these grades of offense involve jail exposure exceeding a year. Therefore, they fall within the traditional definition for a “felony”. Additionally, the US Constitution mandates that a state indict an individual before they may be convicted of a “crime” or felony. First, Second, Third, and Fourth Degree crimes carry a right of indictment in NJ so they, again, are felonies on this basis as well.

This explanation is provided as individuals are often unaware of whether they are the subject of a felony or misdemeanor when they receive a complaint. If the charge involves a crime of any “Degree”, it is a felony.

By |2012-06-07T20:04:48+00:00June 7, 2012|General Criminal|Comments Off on Felony Offenses in New Jersey

Disclosure of the Identity of an Informant

Confidential informants (commonly referred to as a “CI”) are encountered in criminal cases we handle in New Jersey almost every day. The common scenario is someone who has been arrested and decides to cooperate with police, making controlled buys from a particular “target”. The goal of the police is to arrest bigger fish while maintaining the confidentiality of the informant. The law in NJ is extremely protective of the identity of a confidential informant since commonplace disclosure would discourage cooperation given the threat of retaliation against the informant. This being the case, it is often a highly beneficial strategy for the defense to fight for disclosure, particularly, where an informant continues to have value to the police. But when is this possible in New Jersey?

Both NJ Rule of Evidence 516 and N.J.S.A. 2A:84A-28 address when disclosure of the identity of an informant may be obtained. In this regard,

A witness has a privilege to refuse to disclose the identity of a person who has furnished information purporting to disclose a violation of a provision of the laws of this State or of the United States to a representative of the State or the United States or a governmental division thereof, charged with the duty of enforcing that provision, and evidence thereof is inadmissible, unless the judge finds that (a) the identity of the person furnishing the information has already been otherwise disclosed or (b) disclosure of his identity is essential to assure a fair determination of the issues.

New Jersey has basically carved out four scenarios where disclosure of the identity of a confidential informant may be had under these laws: (1) where the informant is a material and essential witness to a case; (2) where the confidential witness was a participant in the crime charged; (3) where the informant provided false information; or (4) where the informant’s identity was previously disclosed. Where one of these circumstances exist, there is basis under NJ law to obtain disclosure of a CI. A motion seeking this relief can often prove highly beneficial to the defense and/or plea negotiations.

By |2012-06-07T20:04:45+00:00June 7, 2012|General Criminal|Comments Off on Disclosure of the Identity of an Informant

Senate Passes S1565: Internet Casino Gambling May Become a Reality

The move towards legalizing online gambling in New Jersey gained momentum this week when a Senate Committee passed S1565, which would authorize casinos in Atlantic City to set up Internet gambling access for their patrons.

Specifically, S1565 provides, most pertinently:

  • all games, including poker, which may be played at a casino, as well as variations or composites thereof, may be offered through Internet wagering;
  • all equipment used by a licensee to conduct Internet wagering must be located either in a restricted area on the premises of the casino hotel or in a secure facility inaccessible to the public and specifically designed for that purpose off the premises of a casino hotel but within the territorial limits of Atlantic City and all Internet wagers will be deemed to be placed when received in Atlantic City by the licensee regardless of the player’s physical location within this State; any intermediate routing of electronic data in connection with a wager will not affect the fact that the wager is placed in Atlantic City;
  • in order to participate in Internet wagering, a player must be physically present in New Jersey whenever a wager is placed by that player;
  • there is imposed an annual tax on Internet wagering gross revenues in the amount of 10% of such gross revenues which will be paid into the casino revenue fund; the 8% tax on casino gross revenues will not apply to Internet wagering gross revenues; and the investment alternative tax will apply to Internet wagering gross revenues, except that the investment alternative tax on these revenues will be 5% and the investment alternative will be 2.5%, with the proceeds thereof used as provided by law;
  • procedures for the crediting and debiting of a wagering account;
  • it will be lawful for a casino licensee to provide marketing information by means of the Internet to players engaged in Internet wagering and to offer those players incentives to visit the licensee’s casino in Atlantic City;
  • required features of Internet wagering to assist the wagering account holder;
  • required features to assist problem gamblers and potential problem gamblers;
  • penalties for violations of the provisions of the bill;
  • an annual fee for Internet wagering permit holders for the initial permit and permit renewal to cover the costs of regulation, with the initial fee to be at least $200,000 and the renewal fee to be at least $100,000; and
  • an annual fee for Internet wagering permit holders of $100,000 to be allocated to programs to prevent compulsive gambling and to assist compulsive gamblers.

The Bill also provides that the Division of Gaming Enforcement will adopt regulations for the implementation and conduct of Internet wagering that are consistent with regulations governing casino gambling generally.

The Bill was amended to its current form to address concerns voiced by Governor Christie last year over the constitutionality of a similar proposed measure, which he ultimately vetoed.

To read S1565 in its entirety, go to:

Push back is allegedly coming from the horse racing industry, whose representatives asserted at the hearing on Tuesday that their exclusion from the Bill will result in the loss of millions of dollars in revenue that can potentially be generated by Internet gambling. Thomas Luchento, President of the Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association of New Jersey claimed that the Bill supports one industry at the expense of another. Noting that patrons could come to the racetrack with their laptops and gamble online without wagering on the horses (thereby allowing for gaming on the premises with no profit for the tracks), Luchento argued, “Why is it different if I have [an Internet gambling] room at the racetrack?”

State Senator Jennifer Beck (R-Monmouth), whose County is home to Monmouth Park, is an avid supporter of the horse racing industry. She said that sought a way for the racetracks to share in the potential revenue, but the options are not likely to survive a legal challenge or Governor Christie’s veto.

The matter will now head to the Senate floor.

By |2012-06-07T20:04:30+00:00June 7, 2012|General Criminal|Comments Off on Senate Passes S1565: Internet Casino Gambling May Become a Reality

Taking the 5th

There are many myths associated with the highly publicized “Taking the 5th” in the American criminal justice system. Obviously taking the 5th refers to the 5th amendment. It specifically refers to the self-incrimination clause of the 5th amendment. First of all, anyone can take the 5th in any proceeding if you feel you are going to incriminate yourself with your response. Therefore, a person can take the 5th in both a criminal trial or a civil trial or any other proceeding taken under oath. Secondly, you have to take the 5th on any given issue the first opportunity you have to do so. If you fail to take the 5th and answer questions relating to a given issue, it is forever waived. The 5th amendment protection pertains only to testimony, not to physical characteristics. Moreover, in the American criminal system a prosecutor cannot comment on a person taking the 5th amendment or invoking your Miranda rights. So when is this privilege unavailable you ask? First, if you are granted immunity from criminal prosecution then you can no longer take the 5th amendment. Use and derivative use immunity means they can’t use anything you say against you and they also cannot use anything derived from that statement against you. A second situation where the privilege is unavailable is if the statute of limitations has run on the crime meaning you can no longer be prosecuted for the crime. If either of these situations occur, the 5th amendment privilege is no longer available. Finally, if a criminal defendant does take the stand and they are asked questions that are the proper subject of interrogation, they can no longer take the 5th. Basically, a criminal defendant is not allowed to take the stand and say what they want on direct examination and then take the 5th when the prosecutor attempts to cross examine them. Hopefully this information helps clear up some of the truths and myths associated with “Taking the 5th Amendment”.

By |2012-06-07T17:46:16+00:00June 7, 2012|General Criminal|Comments Off on Taking the 5th

Michael Vick Sentenced Today

Former NFL star and Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick was sentenced today in Federal Court by the Honorable Henry E. Hudson on dogfighting charges. In an earlier post, I discussed the re-emergence of judicial discretion in sentencing in Federal court following the landmark Booker decision in 2004. This judicial discretion is evident in the 23 month sentence Michael Vick received today. The prosecutors in this case, after negotiating a plea agreement with Michael Vick, recommended 12-18 months incarceration. However, judge Henry Hudson, who has a reputation for being hard on crime, sentenced Vick today to 23 months in federal prison. Vick was facing up to 5 years in prison for his connection with a dogfighting ring. After Vick apologized to the court and his family, Hudson told him: “You need to apologize to the millions of young people who looked up to you.” “Yes, sir,” Vick answered.

By |2012-06-07T17:46:01+00:00June 7, 2012|General Criminal|Comments Off on Michael Vick Sentenced Today
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