Wednesday, December 18, 2013

New Jersey No Early Release Act (NERA) Mandatory For Certain Offenses

Prepared as a public service for the Law Office of Vincent J. Sanzone, Jr., Esq.

Under New Jersey Law, N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2, if a defendant is convicted of certain enumerated offenses, the defendant must serve (mandatory) at least 85% of his or sentence before he or she is eligible for parole.

If you are charged with any of the following offenses you must seek the counsel of an experienced criminal defense attorney, who may or may not be able to avoid the NERA consequences.

The crimes are as follows:  (1) murder; (2) aggravated manslaughter or manslaughter; (3) vehicular homicide; (4) aggravated assault; (5) disarming a law enforcement officer; (6) kidnapping; (7) aggravated sexual assault; (8) subsection (b) of aggravated sexual assault; (9) robbery; carjacking; (10) aggravated arson; (11) burglary (home invasion while occupied); (12) extortion; (13) booby traps in manufacturing of CDS or distribution facility; (14) strict liability for drug induced deaths; (15) terrorism; (16) possessing chemical weapons; (17) racketeering of the first degree.

P.O. Box 261
277 North Broad Street
Elizabeth (Union County) New Jersey 07207
(908) 354-7006

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Monday, November 25, 2013

Crimes Which Require Automatic Mandatory Periods of Driver’s License Suspension.

Prepared as a Public Service to the People from the Law Office of Vincent J. Sanzone, Jr., Esq.

Persons convicted of N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2b (Eluding); Theft or unlawful taking of a Motor Vehicle (N.J.S.A. 2C:20-2.1), require that the court impose a period of mandatory driving license suspension privilege in this state.

Anyone considering taking a plea for these offenses must insure that they understand that their New Jersey driving license privileges will be suspended.  Therefore, if someone is charged with these offenses it is important that the criminal defense attorney handling the matter attempt to resolve the matter so as not to trigger the automatic license suspension.

Many people have plead guilty to these offenses without being advised by their attorney of the automatic mandatory license suspension.  If you have been a victim of such faulty legal advice you are advised to consult the Law Office of Vincent J. Sanzone, Jr., to see whether you might have a post-conviction relief motion to regarding this issue.  Also, many judges have imposed mandatory driving license suspension on people convicted of receiving stolen property (motor vehicle), in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:20-7 which does not require mandatory license suspension.  If you have been a victim to such an illegal sentence you likewise must seek legal representation to rectify that sentence and seek to have your driving privileges restored.

Many Superior Court Judges in Essex County have mistakenly suspended driving privileges based on N.J.S.A. 2C:20-7, which is illegal, and recently the Law Office of Vincent J. Sanzone, Jr., was successful in correcting one illegal sentence and restoring a driver’s license for a client in which the court had imposed a twenty-year driver’s license suspension.

Monday, November 18, 2013

How to Cross-Examine the Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome (CSAAS) Expert for the Prosecution.

This Blog was written and published for the People by the Law Office of Vincent J. Sanzone, Jr.

Often in an alleged sexual assault case of a minor the State prosecutor will offer a CSAAS expert (Child Sexual Abuse Accomodation Syndrome witness) who will testify that the child’s delayed reporting of the abuse is normal in children.  They will use this testimony not only to explain why the delayed reporting is common, but more deceitfully to falsely plant the seed with the jury with the idea that in fact the child is actually telling the truth because he or she delayed in said reporting.
One form of effective cross-examination goes like this.

1.   So, doctor, you’re not saying the child is necessarily telling the truth, correct?
2.   Or that this incident actually happened?
3.   Sometimes children delay in reporting sexual abuse because it never happened, correct?
4.   And other times the delay reporting happens at some future time, due to family influences or the stories of other children, and they make up the claims, correct?
5.   The fact that the child’s allegation came so much later in no way enhances the child’s credibility, correct?

Note, any real cross would be much better structured and somewhat longer, but only somewhat longer. Get in, quickly make your point, and get out. The brevity of the cross implies to the jury your outright dismissal, almost contempt, of the weight of such testimony, and the doctor has said that the child is not necessarily telling the truth, and that some children make up stories. Their expert says that. The jury instruction helps cement the point. Incorporate the language used in the charge into your questions to make it seem to the jury that the judge agrees with you by using the same words in his final charge and the same cautionary instructions.  
Lastly, it is important that you read the jury charge first. It offers a wealth of topics for cross-examination, and with just a few questions you can turn that witness into your best summation argument. You do not want to undermine the witness.  Most importantly you want to use his/her credentials to prove your point.

P.O. Box 261
277 North Broad Street
Elizabeth, N.J. 07207
Office:   (908) 354-7006
Cell:     (201) 240-5716
Dated: November 18, 2013

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Thursday, October 31, 2013

New Jersey Supreme Court refines State v. Gilmore, 103 N.J. 508 (1986), “the Gilmore Jury Preemptory Challenges”, in the recent case, State v. Andrews, ___ N.J. ____ (2013)

A public service Blog presented to the People by the Law Office of Vincent J. Sanzone, Jr., Esq., 277 North Broad Street, Elizabeth, N.J. 07207 (908) 354-7006

In Andrews the Supreme Court held that the trial court in addressing whether the State or the Defense improperly uses a preemptory challenge to remove a juror based on race, the trial judge can be given more flexibility in fashioning a remedy.

Specifically,  in the Andrews case the trial court determined that the State had established a prima facie case that the defense had excluded a number of jurors based on race.  Accordingly, the burden shifted to the defense to give the court an articulable reason for the decision to eliminate the white juror.  When defense counsel could not give a reason for the decision to eliminate the juror, the trial court overruled the preemptory challenge of the defense and seated the juror. 

The defendant was convicted and appealed, arguing that the trial court exceeded its authority in seating that juror.  The appellate division agreed and held that based on Gilmore the trial court was constrained to discharge the entire panel and start anew with jury selections.

The high court disagreed and held that the Gilmore bright-line is unworkable, and that the trial court can be more flexible in remedying the situation. 

Therefore, the Supreme Court held that Gilmore is accordingly modified and that the trial court is permitted to do any of the following on a case-by-case basis:
1.      Dismissing the empanelled jury member(s) and the venire and beginning jury selection anew;
2.        Reseating the wrongfully excused juror(s), if these juror(s) are still available and not tainted by the preemptory challenge;
3.        Reseating the wrongfully excused juror(s) and ordering forfeiture by the offending party of his or her improperly exercised peremptory challenge(s);
4.        Permitting trial courts to require challenges to prospective jurors outside the presence of the jury; granting additional peremptory challenges to the aggrieved party;
5.        A combination of these remedies as the individual case requires. Every decision to invoke a remedy must assure a fair trial to all and elimination of the taint of discrimination.

From the prospective of this criminal defense attorney it appears that trial judges will now grant Gilmore applications more frequently based on the options now available to them.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Another Law Enforcement Dirty Little Secret; The Trick Question: What Do You Have That Knife For?

Sadly, to many of our young men, and even some adults are falling for the trick question by the New Jersey traffic cop pulling over a motorist and seeing a pocket knife in the motor vehicle. 

By way of background in New Jersey it is not unlawful for anybody to have in their motor vehicle or on their person’s a pocket knife or other types of cutting instruments. For the majority of people the use of a pocket knife is essential in performing essential routine tasks such as anything from cutting fruit to opening that heavy duty shrink wrap plastic surrounding the latest item purchased in a retail store.  However, the law in New Jersey does prohibit the possession of a pocket knife or any other type of cutting instrument for an unlawful purpose.  

The traffic cop pulling you over knows the law, and they know the majority of people do not, and hence, when they are looking to make an arrest they will ask you the trick question, which sadly most people fall for. 

The question the cop will ask with that phony, kind, sympathetic face of a concerned person, although silently salivating for you to fall into the trap, will ask you: “I see you have a knife is that for self-protection?”  Or the more innocuous question, “Why do you have that knife?”  If you answer, “for protection”, 95% of the time you will be placed under arrest for possession of a knife for an unlawful purpose.  Of course, common sense will tell you that self-defense is always a defense in the right circumstances, and the use of a knife to protect yourself under the right circumstances might be a complete defense to having that knife.  But the cop in the small town with nothing to do but harass people will arrest you and charge you with that trick question.  Does this really happen in New Jersey, being a criminal defense attorney for 23-years in New Jersey I see it all the time.  Are these types of arrests really the result of the cop not knowing the law, or sadly just an excuse to lock people up without cause and justification in order to search their motor vehicle?  I do not know the answer to that question, but it happens all the time. 

This is a public service blog for the people.  This legal blog is not meant to give any particular legal advice on any given case or a legal treatise or commentary of every aspect of possession of a weapon for unlawful purpose.  This blog is not written to disparage honest and hardworking law enforcement officers who everyday try to do the right thing, but only those whom seem to use their power, duty and privilege to oppress, abuse and unfairly use their power to hurt the most vulnerable segment of our society with impunity. 

If you are faced with such charges you should consult an experienced criminal defense attorney Vincent J. Sanzone, who has been representing people charged with crimes and disorderly person’s offenses for 23-years.

Sanzone Firm
Law Office of Vincent J. Sanzone, Jr.
P.O. Box 261
277 North Broad Street
Elizabeth, N.J. 07207
(908) 354-7006
Dated: September 17, 2013

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Successfully Defending the Eluding Charge

“Back in the day”, as people often use the term, getting away from the police after a police officer activated his overhead lights and siren was something that was not uncommon.  The reason for this was because if you were caught the only consequence of such eluding from the police was multiple motor vehicle summons.  In fact, often the prosecutor would not be able to prove the case and these moving violations were often dismissed at trial unless the motorist who was eluding was eventually pulled-over.  The reason being, that the state could not prove identification of the driver, and issuing tickets to the registered owner is never sufficient to prove who was actually driving the vehicle at the time of the eluding. 

Today, however, it is quite different and if one attempts to elude a motor vehicle stop and “take-off”, he will probably be indicted for a second degree eluding charge (5-10 years in state prison) because almost ever eluding puts at risk the driver (eluder), police officer or any other motorists in the area who is on the road in the vicinity of the eluding motorist..

Therefore, if you are charged with eluding it is important that you retained an experienced New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney who has had experience in successfully representing individuals charged with such offenses.

Unfortunately, eluding can be a very discretionary charge depending of the particular police officer attempting to effectuate a motor vehicle stop.  What is alluding to one police officer is not alluding to another.  Is eluding when you fail to immediately pull over?  Is eluding when the motorist pulls over after 5 blocks, instead of two blocks?  Is eluding when the motorist is pursued by an unmarked vehicle and is afraid that the vehicle that is pursuing them is in fact not a police officer, but a rogue bandit?  Does eluding begin when the motorist first recognizes, sees and hears a police vehicle behind them?  How does the officer in fact know that he is being noticed by the motorist; therefore, when does eluding begin, when the motorist recognizes that a police vehicle is behind him, or when the police officer first activates his overhead lights and siren? 

Defending the eluding case is complex and knowing what discovery to ask for is the first important step in successfully defending the eluding case.  The attorney must obtain all patrol, dispatch, audio, CAD, MVR records and tapes of the pursuit.  Sometimes, this discovery will reveal inconsistencies, and outright lies of the officer.  Often this discovery will contradict his or her police report and give the jury sufficient reasonable doubt for a not-guilty verdict or a lesser charge.

In some cases after confronted the prosecutor with this evidence the prosecutor will downgrade the charge to third-degree eluding or other such lesser charge.

P.O. Box 261
277 North Broad Street
Elizabeth, N.J. 07207
Office:         (908) 354-7006
Cell:            (201) 240-5716
Dated: January 9, 2013

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Friday, January 4, 2013

Injustice: Wrongful Convictions, False Confessions and the Innocent Defendant

A study conducted by the Innocent Project of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, revealed that in approximately 25% of DNA exoneration cases, innocent defendants made false incriminating statements, delivered outright false confessions or plead guilty to a crime in which they did not commit in order to limit the amount of jail time.

These cases show without any doubt that confessions are not always the product from someone who is guilty but rather from suspects who are in fact innocent, but falsely incriminate themselves.

A dirty secret in law enforcement is that obtaining a confession, any confession, at all costs, is the ultimate goal in interrogating any suspect.  Another dirty secret in law enforcement is as long as they have a confession it matters nothing if the person confessing is innocent or guilty of the crime.  Because in their wrapped minds, not only can they close the books on the crime as solved, but if the person didn’t do this particular crime they are guilty of something anyway.

In law enforcement closing the file and “solving the crime” is what ultimately matters.  Justice, truth or getting the right man means nothing after a confession is obtained.  For example in cases in which false confessions are obtained the confession is usually inconsistent with the real verifiable facts of the crime.  To get around this obvious problem the interrogating detective will feed the suspect facts of the crime scene that only the perpetrator and law enforcement would know about.  Therefore, in false confession cases the New Jersey criminal defense attorney must be cognizant of confessions in which the confessor does not know the facts of the crime, and is spoon fed the facts that were found at the crime scene.  Rogue detectives will never admit that they made a mistake or used unfair, false, or coercive interrogation techniques when they testify at a Miranda Hearing or trial.  To justify their actions the detectives will engage in what is called circular reasoning or circular mentality.  That is, the cop has to believe that they got the right suspect.  Otherwise a sane cop could not keep his or her sanity.  They have to convince themselves that he is a right man, even when all the evidence points to the fact that they got the wrong man.

When confessions are introduced at trial, the confession overrules and overrides all the other evidence of innocence’s.  And juries have difficulty in getting over the fact that someone confessed.  The first question the jury will ask in the jury room during deliberations; is why did he confess if he is innocent?  You see people who have never faced a vicious interrogating detective, who knows all the tricks, can brake the will of even the most sophisticated suspect, will not understand that innocent people falsely confess to a crime which they did not commit all the time for a varied of reasons.  Some detectives will freely admit off the record that they can get almost anyone to falsely implicate themselves, and this is frightenly true.

Whether someone is actually guilty is of no consequences to the questioning detective.  In the majority of cases if they get you to confess, even if the evidence points in the direction that you are innocent does not matter.  The interrogating officer will continue with the interrogation until the detective gets the suspect to repeat the story that the detective wants to hear.  Usually this dog and pony show rehearsing will take place before the actual audio or visual recording is turned on. Therefore, all the tricks and lies are promised off the record.  Also, promises and threats and other misleading information that the detective tells the suspect will also be done before the audio confession is turned on.  

The single goal of interrogations is to get someone to confess who they believe is guilty.  They don’t waste time spending hours interrogating someone whom they think is innocent. 

Scientific research has continually shown that some personalities are more prone to this type of pressure than offers.  People with weak personalities or other types of mental disabilities are more prone to give false confessions.  However, people with forceful personalities are less likely.  Also, people who have never been arrested before, do not know the legal system, young, women, disabled are more likely to falsely implicate themselves.

Unfortunately, most jurors cannot understand or will not accept the reality that it is possible that someone will falsely accuse themselves of a crime, which he or she did not commit.  It is very difficult to explain to a jury what an innocent defendant is feeling when confronted with such circumstances.

The reasons for a false confession and this phenomena is varied, however, the biggest signal factor is trickery and false promises by the interrogating detective.  There are many threats, tricks and deceitful techniques that a rogue officer will use.  Some of the most common are:  Telling the suspect that they failed a polygraph examination when in fact they passed it;  telling the suspect that they will not be charged if they confess to the story that the detectives want to hear; telling the suspect that if they are sent into the holding cell they will be assaulted and raped by the other prisoners, telling a suspect that if they don’t confess to the story that they want to hear their children will be taken away and DYFS will be called; telling the suspect that if they don’t confess they will get the death penalty;  telling the suspect that if they don’t confess to the story they want to hear they will call the judge and make sure that the bail is so high that the suspect will not be able to make bail.

For a New Jersey criminal defense attorney it is extremely difficult to convince a jury that in fact innocent people falsely accuse themselves of crimes which they did not commit.  In trying this type of case before a jury in New Jersey the N.J. criminal defense attorney has the uphill battle of trying to point out this phenomenon.

The false confession case was epitomes in the infamous case of “The Norfolk Four”, in which seven enlisted United States Navy Sailors were charged with the brutal slaying and rape in which the four sailors falsely accused themselves of a crime in which it was eventually proven that they did not commit the crime, when the real killer was later found, confessed and his DNA matched found at the crime scene.

The rogue cop, Robert Glen Ford, you obtained the false confessions from the Norfolk Four was later convicted of federal extortion and lying to the F.B.I. was sentenced to 12 ½ years in federal prison.

In New Jersey false confession expert testimony is allowed by the seminal case, State  v. George King. Unfortunately most people charged with a crime who give false confession cannot afford the services of this type of expert witness and the jury will never hear about the phenomenon of a “false confession.”

Law Office of Vincent J. Sanzone, Jr., Esq.
277 North Broad Street, P.O. Box 261, Elizabeth, N.J. 07207
Office;   (908) 354-7006
Cell:     (201) 240-5716
Dated:  January 4, 2013

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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Your Fourth Amendment Rights: Unreasonable Search By Police by Lifting Shirt Exceeds Terry Type Search and Results in Suppression of CDS Seized.

In State v. Privott the New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed the appellate division holding reversing a conviction on the basis that the defendant’s Fourth Amendment Rights were violating. 

In this case an anonymous caller told Plainfield Police that a black male was with a gun on the corner of Plainfield Avenue and West Third Street in the city, wearing a black jacket and red and black hat.  He was further described as being tall and tin.  Upon arrival the police noticed a black male matching that description, and when noticed, walked away from the patrol vehicle.  Further, the officer testified that this individual was known by him to associate with known drug gangs, and this area of Plainfield was a high crime area.  Further, the office testified that the suspect appeared nervous and appeared to be touching something at his waistband area of his pants.  The office told the suspect to turn around and place his hands on the fence, which the suspect did.  The officer than lifted the shirt of the suspect in which a bag of crack cocaine was found.

The appellate division and the Supreme Court suppressed the cocaine on the basis that the officer engaged in a search (lifting the suspects shirt), which exceeded the Terry Type frisk type search permitted.  The police clearly had reasonable suspicion based on the totality of the facts to engage in a pat-down of the suspect but not lifting his shirt and exposing his stomack.

If you have been subject to a search which has lead to your arrest and charges it is important that you seek the advice of an experienced NJ Criminal Defense Attorney, who will access you chances of having your charges thrown out with a motion to suppress evidence.

Law Office of Vincent J. Sanzone, Jr., an experienced NJ criminal defense lawyer who has 23 years of experience in successfully defending people accused of crimes.

Union, Essex, Hudson, Bergen, Middlesex Criminal Attorney Vincent J. Sanzone, Jr.
P.O. Box 261
277 North Broad Street
2nd Floor
Elizabeth, N.J. 07207
Office: (908) 354-7006
Cell:   (201) 240-5716
Dated: January 2, 2013