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Westfield NJ Criminal Defense Law Blog

What is copyright infringement?

If you have ever watched a movie on disc at home, then before or after the feature presentation you will see a notice warning about the perils of copyright infringement if you make an illegal copy of the movie. But what is a copyright, exactly, and what are the penalties if you are convicted of a copyright violation?

A copyright is more than just a © symbol. It has real significance, and is meant to protect an author's or other creator's rights in his or her original work. Copyrights can exist on many different kinds of tangible media, including literary, musical and dramatic works, motion pictures and sound recordings, architectural, pictorial, graphical and sculptural works, and more. The copyright does not protect ideas, it protects their physical expressions from unauthorized duplication and includes protection of derivative as well as original works.

The perfect storm: more government criminal laws and penalties

One of the earmarks of the steady expansion of government at the New Jersey state level and the federal level is that more and more laws and regulations make it easier to find yourself in violation of them. It is similar to walking through a minefield: the more mines that are laid in your path, the more likely it is that you will finally step on one of them.

But what can make matters worse in our legal minefield of state and federal criminal laws is that not only are there seemingly more mines being planted all the time, but the mines themselves are becoming bigger. What we are referring to is the trend toward increasing the jail or prison time, fines and other sanctions that you may face if you are convicted of crimes that are already serious in nature, such as white collar crimes.

The distinction between tax fraud cases and negligence

Most Union County taxpayers have no reason to fear a federal IRS tax fraud charge. The reason is that less than one percent of taxpayers are the subject of allegations of tax fraud that result in a conviction in any given year. But tax fraud does happen. In fact, 75 percent of income tax fraud charges are made against individual taxpayers.

An audit of a New Jersey resident's tax return that discloses under reported income or deductions to which the filer is not entitled may not be the result of an attempt to commit tax fraud. The complexity of the tax code and the tax laws can result in mistakes being made by taxpayers, accountants and tax preparers.

U.S. Supreme Court to decide "analogue drug" case

One of the challenges that courts in New Jersey and across the country face today in illegal drug cases is the introduction of so-called "designer" drugs, which are chemical compounds that do not appear among the definitions of illegal drugs under federal law but which purportedly mimic the mental and physical effects of those drugs.

At issue in a recent case, McFadden v. United States,  that was argued recently before the U.S. Supreme Court involving "bath salts" – a drug that if taken like cocaine is supposed to mimic its effects, was how a federal law (the Controlled Substance Analogue Enforcement Act, or "CSAE"), should be interpreted. 

Tax fraud charges comes with stiff penalties

Now that tax season is over, you may be worried about getting audited. Common mistakes, such as math errors, and red flags, such as filing a return as "self-employed," make it more likely that you will be audited. Still, the IRS understands that the tax code is complicated and that people make mistakes. As a result, the IRS distinguishes mistake or negligence from tax fraud, as discussed in an earlier post.

Essentially, tax fraud comes down to the taxpayer's intent. In other words, the IRS looks at whether the taxpayer willfully attempted to defraud the government by not paying taxes that he or she knows are due.   

What is a white collar crime?

Insurance fraud, mortgage fraud, embezzlement and income tax evasion are different forms of white-collar crime. white-collar crimes charges involve some form of deception, but violence is generally not used to carry them out.

Fraud is probably the most common white-collar crime. Unlike a theft crime in which money or personal property is physically removed from the possession of a victim, a fraud victim loses the money or property a result of a lie, trick or deception. For example, someone running a Ponzi scheme tricks investors into parting with their money by promising them extremely high returns on an investment that does not exist.

How can a sex crime in New Jersey lead to federal charges?

Violating a state law in New Jersey does not, normally, expose someone to the possibility of federal criminal penalties. This is not, however, the situation if the state crime is a sex offense requiring that a convicted person register as a sex offender.

The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act is a national sex offender registry that was enacted into law to bring uniformity to federal and state laws designed to keep track of convicted sex offenders. The law applies to the 50 states and the District of Columbia as well as to U.S. territories and Indian tribes that are recognized by the federal government.

Swiss bank accounts: are they still a tax shelter?

Even people with no banking experience and no personal experience with the Swiss banking system are generally aware of the reputation of that system when it comes to providing a way to hide money. The federal government is also well aware of this reputation, and has taken measures to make it less attractive to people seeking to avoid paying taxes. A recent news story suggests that despite these countermeasures, some people are still using Swiss banks as a tax shelter of dubious legality.

Federal laws that seek to discourage hiding money overseas as a tax evasion technique can subject not only the overseas bank customers but the bankers themselves to criminal legal liability. In the story at hand, two of eight former employees of a Swiss bank that was itself convicted of helping U.S. taxpayers illegally avoid more than $2 billion in tax obligations pled guilty in federal court for their involvement in that activity.

What are the elements of a fraud charge?

Fraud crimes are found in the New Jersey criminal statutes and under federal laws, as well. A broad definition of fraud would be the intentional use of deceit or deception by an individual for his or her personal or monetary benefit.

Most crimes involving fraudulent conduct fall under the category of white collar crime charges because they usually do not include violence or threats to carry them out. The laws that define state and federal fraud crimes will vary depending upon the particular activities being prohibited, but there are certain elements common to all crimes involving fraudulent conduct.

How New Jersey defines the crime of forgery

The general notion of forgery is of someone signing another person's name on a document for financial gain, such as writing a check on someone else's account or creating a fake will. While these examples are correct as far as they go, they do not capture the full meaning of how New Jersey defines the crime of forgery.

The law in this state that makes forgery a crime makes it clear that the act must be intentional, and that it must be undertaken with the intent to defraud or injure someone else. How one can go about accomplishing these objectives can involve more than simply faking someone else's signature on a blank line.