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Westfield NJ Criminal Defense Law Blog

Due process in criminal cases: The 4th Amendment

In an earlier post we introduced the subject of how the concept of due process interacts with the criminal justice system. Although not all of the amendments that comprise the Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution are related to procedural due process, the 4th, 5th, 6th and 8th Amendments are directly connected to it. We will briefly cover each of these amendments going forward, starting with the 4th Amendment.

The 4th Amendment safeguards against unreasonable searches and seizures of persons and property, and except for situations that courts have carved out as exceptions (see below) requires the use of search and arrest warrants based on probable cause. Evidence gathered by the police in violation of the 4th Amendment cannot be used against you; courts have referred to this exclusion as the "fruit of the poisonous tree" rule.

How the federal government defines a hate crime

If you have watched the news in the past few months, you have most likely heard the term “hate crime” being used. This is a phrase that is often used injudiciously to describe any scuffle between people of different races or religions. Yet, the United States government has specific parameters that give a solid definition of “hate crime.”

What separates federal laws apart from many state laws, is that the national statutes specifically focus on physical violence. States may further add to this. For instance, in New Jersey there are laws preventing intimidation of another person based on specific factors. In both state and federal cases, a hate crime is one taken against another person because of their national origin, religion, disability or gender — including their sexual orientation or gender identity.

What is due process in criminal defense?

Sometimes you may hear about "due process" in connection with your rights in the criminal justice system. But what exactly does that mean, and what are its sources of authority? In this and some of our future posts we will address due process generally as well as its core opponents.

The root of due process lies in the 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which states that no one shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law. In addition to the Constitution itself, both federal and state rules of criminal procedure also help to ensure that the due process rights of the accused are respected from the time of arrest through pretrial and trial proceedings and during sentencing if the trial results in a conviction. 

How many federal felonies have you committed today?

The plethora of federal laws and regulations that apply to you is probably not something that you give much thought to on any given day. But perhaps you should, for you might not realize that you may be committing criminal violations practically all the time and not even be aware of it – until someone from the federal government agency accuses you of having committed a crime, at which point it is too late to avoid it.

In the eyes of the law, you can become a federal criminal suspect almost anywhere and at any time. When you are at home, at the office, hiking in the forest, driving your car, sitting at your computer, buying and selling goods, and more. Federal rules, regulations and laws and the agencies in charge of enforcing them can touch upon almost any aspect of your waking moments. The employees who work for these agencies know what to look for in your behaviors; do you?

Union County couple awaiting sentencing on tax fraud charges

Allegations of tax fraud can result in charges of failure to reporting earnings and income with severe penalties and long-term consequences for a person who is convicted. Tax preparers who prepare fraudulent tax returns for their clients may also risk being caught up FBI and state investigations of tax fraud.

That is what appears to have happened to a Union County couple who prepared tax returns for a living. The husband faced allegations of tax fraud for having prepared and filed income tax returns with the IRS on behalf of clients. The government accused him of including information in the tax returns about businesses that did not exist and of inflating and fabricating deductions.

Child pornography charge could lead to decades in prison

There is a saying, perhaps cynical, that "Character is what you are in the dark." In a sense, the Internet is one way in which this notion can find expression, based on the sense of anonymity that it can create. People may be tempted to write or even to do things online that they might not otherwise if they knew that they were being watched.

The problem is, increasingly these days when you surf the web or engage in virtual conversations with others, you are indeed being watched. And if the content of your interaction leads toward behavior that federal or New Jersey law has made illegal, this can lead to a bad conclusion. 

Supreme Court breaks new ground in Internet crime defense

The proliferation of computers, smartphones and tablets has caused an explosion in the use people make of social media. Use of the Internet to share information with friends and acquaintances has vastly improved the ways in which people can communicate with each other. Unfortunately, social media has also given rise to Internet crime in the form of computer fraud, cyber terrorism, identity theft and cyber bullying.

A federal investigation into the activities of one Facebook user that resulted in criminal charges and a trial recently drew the attention of the United States Supreme Court. The criminal case focused on threats a man was alleged to have made against his wife and several other people and groups by posting violent lyrics from a rap song on Facebook.

Straw buyers and phony documents in massive mortgage fraud

A group of New Jersey residents were sentenced for their roles in a scheme that sought to take advantage of their knowledge of the real estate market and mortgages. The trio of co-conspirators received sentences ranging from 30 months to 63 months in federal prison.

The defendants were convicted of various white collar crime charges including wire fraud. According to facts established at their trial, the defendants purchased condominiums from builders and developers who were under financial pressure to get rid of the properties at bargain prices.

Alleged identity theft sparks multi-agency federal investigation

Identity theft can be a crime under New Jersey or federal law. Depending upon the means used to commit the violation, one or more federal government agencies may claim jurisdiction when it comes to investigating and prosecuting it. A recent case involving a Trenton man accused of using identity theft to steal federal tax refund checks amounting to more than $30,000 offers an example of how this can happen.

The accused was working as an employee of the US Postal Service during the commission of the alleged scheme, which involve the use of stolen identities of citizens of Puerto Rico and intercepting fraudulent tax returns while they were still in the mail. An undercover agent working for the Postal Service gained the confidence of the accused to the extent that the agent was able to provide him with fake addresses to have fraudulent tax return sent to as well as transferring to him fake treasury checks in exchange for cash.

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.