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Westfield NJ Criminal Defense Law Blog

Federal Court refuses to impose harsh penalties for fake drugs

A judge presiding in federal court in New Jersey thinks the government is not playing fairly when it comes to sentencing. His decision to impose penalties at sentencing that were well-below those sought by federal prosecutors brought to public attention a common law enforcement and prosecutorial tactic designed to manipulate the sentencing guidelines.

The case began with the arrest of a suspect as part of an investigation organized by agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The ATF created a sting operation involving a fake stash house. Agents got word out that the house held large quantities of cocaine, and they waited for someone to try to rob it.

When selling online becomes a crime

Selling things online can be very profitable. On the other hand, selling fake products on the Internet can lead to prosecution. Under federal and New Jersey laws, selling fakes online is considered to be a crime.

One common way that people violate the law is by selling products that use someone else’s trademark. This is known as a counterfeit product. A trademark is a name, word, slogan, or symbol that a business uses to distinguish its products from others. When a business registers the trademark, others are prevented from using it. An example of a counterfeit product is a purse that has a Coach logo on it but was not created by Coach. It is illegal to knowingly sell counterfeit goods such as this. A person who is convicted of selling counterfeit goods faces heavy fines and a lengthy prison sentence.  

Proposed law could lead to more cybercrime prosecutions

The U.S. Senate recently approved a proposed federal law intended to protect businesses and government agencies against cybercrimes and cyber terrorism. The proposed law would make it possible for private companies, government agencies and other organizations to share information they have that is related to identity theft and other cybercrimes.

The proposal has been criticized due to privacy issues because it allows for the sharing of customer information that might allow the government to conduct surveillance of the individuals identified by the shared data. Critics also argued that sharing information with other entities makes it easier for those engaged in cybercrime activities to get access to the data.

Were you accused of a white-collar crime? Let us help you

In the overall scheme of fraud and larceny, from petty crimes like thefts from automobiles or shoplifting all the way up to massive schemes involving things like insider trading scandals and embezzlement of millions of dollars by executives of corporations, it should come as no surprise that New Jersey state and federal law enforcement officials have chosen to focus their most intense resources on the crimes where the most money is involved.

What this can mean to you if you are accused of a white-collar crime is that you can quickly find yourself in an "alphabet soup" maelstrom of government agencies investigating and possibly charging you: the FBI, the SEC, the IRS, the USPS, the Secret Service and the Treasury Department are just some of the federal government organizations that may take an interest in you, and that does not take into account the various state-level agencies that they may coordinate with. Indeed, it is not uncommon for multiple agencies to form "task forces" to pursue high-level cases involving claims of misrepresentation and theft of large amounts of funds.

Federal criminal justice overhauls agreement among U.S. Senators

A long-standing challenge to the criminal justice system at both federal and state levels has been prison overcrowding, which has been the product of the “get-tough” approach of tougher sentencing guidelines and mandatory minimum prison sentences for both violent and nonviolent crimes.

Now, a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators has, after years of negotiations, reached a deal to propose changes to the federal criminal justice system that would reduce the time spent in prison for both future and some present inmates.

Computer virus used in international computer crime

When it comes to investigating Internet crime, federal law enforcement agencies treat them as serious charges. The fact that the person alleged to be committing computer fraud is in another country does not matter once that person becomes the target of a federal investigation.  The government will expend whatever resources necessary to enforce the laws.

For example, an international computer crime organization was the subject of a federal investigation that lead to the arrest and extradition to this country of a suspect. The group hacked into business and personal computers and infected at least 13,000 of them with a computer virus that gave control of the computers to the hackers.

Pope Francis and the death penalty

A few weeks ago, Pope Francis paid an historic visit to the United States, visiting Philadelphia, New York City and Washington, D.C. While he was here, he spoke before Congress about a number of issues, including freedom rights and death penalty cases.

The pope, during his address to Congress, focused some of his comments on the abolition of the death penalty across the entire world. He believes, he said, that it is our human responsibility to defend and protect human life, regardless of the mitigating circumstances. He believes that since all life should be held sacred, criminal justice should focus more on rehabilitation and less on capital punishment.

What is money laundering, and is it a serious crime?

You have probably heard or read about someone facing criminal charges following a federal investigation into money laundering. Don’t be fooled into believing that it is not a serious criminal offense just by the fact that it is rarely associated with violence and is referred to as a white collar crime.

Not only can you face long prison sentences and heft fines if convicted, but each transaction can be charged by prosecutors as a separate criminal offense for which a court may impose penalties. Federal prosecutors are encouraged in their training manual to charge you separately for each transaction. 

What is Megan’s Law?

Megan’s Law is a federal law is named after a 7-year-old New Jersey girl named Megan Kanka, who was raped and murdered by a registered sex offender in 1994. The offender moved across the street from Megan’s family, but they did not know that he was a convicted child molester. Megan’s Law, which was enacted in 1996, requires states to make information about registered sex offenders available to the public.

Under Megan’s Law, all states must have a sex offender registry and some form of community notification. In New Jersey, the sex offender registry is available on the Internet so that the public can access the information. 

How can the government seize my property without charging me?

There have been stories in the news recently about how the government – at both the New Jersey and federal levels – has been using asset forfeiture as a means of funding law enforcement activities. While this may not come as a surprise in cases where criminal defendants have been convicted of crimes and the assets seized represented their ill-gotten gains, the reality is that sometimes people are having their property taken away from them without a warrant requirement or even being charged with anything.

At the federal level, the government can seize property using a variety of means. It can do so administratively; it can do so through the criminal justice system; and it can do so in civil court actions. Civil asset forfeitures can be particularly pernicious, with more than $4 billion of property assets seized nationally in one year alone, and more than $2 billion in cash being seized from individuals who were never charged with a crime.