The Department of Justice (DOJ) and various state agencies have announced that they will aggressively pursue fraudulent schemes related to COVID-19. On March 16, Attorney General William Barr directed all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to prioritize the detection, investigation, and prosecution of all criminal conduct related to the Coronavirus pandemic. Each office was directed to appoint a COVID-19 fraud coordinator to serve as the liaison between the local Department of Justice and their state and local counterparts.
NY & NJ Criminal Defense Law Blog
Many federal, state, and municipal courts have limited the number and types of cases they will be handling in the near term. Some have adjourned jury trials for several weeks and in some cases even months to see what happens after a period of isolation. Courts have summarily waived Speedy Trial Act rights and ordered continuances for a period of time. State courts in particular are promoting the use of video and teleconferencing in lieu of appearing in court. Municipal courts have adjourned court appearances for motor vehicle summonses and code violations. Detention has been waived in certain cases depending on the type of crime, the age of the offender, and other relevant factors.
Despite the United States Supreme Court decision in Carpenter v. United States requiring law enforcement to obtain a court authorized warrant for historic and current cellphone location data, four main cellphone carriers have continued to sell real-time location data to a host of entities, including federal law enforcement agencies. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is proposing fines of up to $200 million against these carriers for the violations.
When a person is a target of a federal or state criminal investigation, they are often contacted − either directly if unrepresented or through counsel if represented − to attend either a proffer or a reverse proffer with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, State Attorney General’s Office, or County Prosecutor’s Office.
In many states, prosecutors and defense attorneys have the ability to sentence bargain, meaning that in addition to determining what charges the client agrees to plead to, they also agree to a specific sentence that the court must then accept or reject. In the very few cases where the court rejects the sentencing recommendation, the client is afforded the opportunity to withdraw the guilty plea or accept the sentence as determined by the court. The federal system is much different.
In the federal system, most people charged with non-violent offenses are released on conditions after their first appearance before a magistrate judge. Conditions of release are meant to reasonably assure the appearance of the defendant in court as required, as well as the safety of any other person or the community pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §3142(c). Conditions may be as simple as release on an unsecured appearance bond (meaning no property or money is posted); travel restricted to the continental United States; surrender of one’s passport; surrender of any firearms; and telephonic or in-person reporting to Pretrial Services. In certain serious cases, conditions of release could be very stringent, requiring home detention with electronic monitoring where the person is only allowed out of the home for pre-approved visits with their attorney or medical appointments; surrender of family members’ passports; the posting of real properties with substantial equity; and release of the defendant to third party custodians who are required to report any violations of the release conditions to the court.
NEW ORLEANS – Laura K. Gasiorowski, Esq. of Robert G. Stahl Esq. Criminal Defense Lawyers is again teaching the Pre-Trial Motion Litigation Intersession Bootcamp at Tulane University’s School of Law January 6 – 13, 2020. The program provides second and third-year law students of the school with practical pre-trial motion litigation experience.
The world is now a much smaller and more surveilled place. Private companies that make our smart phones, home security systems, smart home systems, baby monitors, computers, E-Z Pass, real time traffic apps and many more internet-of-things devices track, record and store information about our personal lives. Law enforcement has access to much of this information, often without the need for a warrant. Furthermore, law enforcement has its own methods to track and record private citizens through wiretaps, license plate readers, surveillance cameras, mobile tracking devices, hidden recorders and many other devices and methods.
Investigating and prosecuting healthcare fraud remains one of the top priorities of the Department of Justice. Nationwide crackdowns and arrests have demonstrated that the government’s war on crime goes beyond drugs, guns, and gangs. While those are certainly a priority of DOJ and an easy way to boost prosecution numbers nationwide, they are by no means the only priority.
Many police departments around the country use body worn cameras to capture officers’ interactions with citizens and suspects. When properly used, the footage from these encounters has proven helpful to prosecutors and defense attorneys, allowing both sides to examine one aspect of the encounter. When combined with eyewitness reports, police reports, footage from video cameras in the area and traditional evidence, a more complete understanding of the incident should be available. The growing popularity of body worn cameras has revealed, however, that the recordings can present a one-sided view, and are capable of being misused, misinterpreted, and tampered with.