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.
Whether you are in federal or state court, well-crafted pretrial motions are essential to a successful defense. Pretrial motions are requests by way of formal motion, which may ask for the court to compel the prosecutor to turn over evidence, to dismiss the indictment or certain counts, to exclude or limit certain evidence, or to prevent the prosecutor from making certain arguments to the jury, among other things. These types of motions may also raise discovery violations; challenge the admission of evidence from searches, electronic surveillance, identifications, and custodial interrogation; and/or challenge the sufficiency of grand jury proceedings.
We receive many calls over the course of the year from potential clients, telling us they received a “target letter” from the U.S. Attorney’s Office or State Attorney General’s Office and that they are considering whether to go to an interview with law enforcement under a “proffer agreement.”
In many cases, defense attorneys utilize various experts to assist in their defense of a client. Those experts may include private investigators, forensic accountants, psychologists, DNA analysts, accident reconstruction analysis and economists. While experts can provide invaluable assistance in understanding the prosecution’s theory of the case and in analyzing and attacking the government’s evidence, special care must be taken to protect and preserve the attorney-client and work-product privileges.
Just the other day, "Bridgegate" cooperator and former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey official David Wildstein, was sentenced in federal court to probation. The two defendants that he cooperated against were sentenced to 24 months and 19 months in federal prison. Despite the fact that Wildstein pled guilty to two counts of conspiracy for his role in the offense, and faced several years in prison, the sentencing judge granted the government’s downward departure motion for a much more lenient sentence – in this case probation.
A plea agreement is the negotiated resolution of a criminal case between the government and the defense when the client decides to plead guilty rather than fighting the charges at trial. The benefit of a plea agreement is that the plea is usually to a lower offense or a limited number of charges rather than to the most severe charge(s). In most instances, a defendant is rewarded in some fashion for pleading guilty rather than going to trial.
On May 2, 2017, the New Jersey Supreme Court beat back an attempt by prosecutors and a lower court judge to require a defendant to create and turn over evidence prior to trial over the defendant’s objection that doing so violated his right to remain silent. In State v. Tier, the Supreme Court clarified an issue that often causes a great deal of argument in the days leading up to criminal trials: the extent to which and in what form a defendant must provide the State with statements by witnesses who are expected to testify for the defense. In ruling for the defense, the Supreme Court provided criminal defendants with a valuable precedential opinion by which to combat overly-aggressive attempts by the State to shift the burden onto the defendant to produce evidence before trial.
The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects us from unreasonable searches and seizures. Unlike a warrantless stop and search of a car or of a person walking down the street, when law enforcement searches a home or business they have usually obtained a search warrant to do so. A search warrant must be issued by a neutral and detached magistrate (judge); be supported by probable cause; and describe in detail the place to be searched and the things to be seized.
Tags: Criminal Defense Process
In many types of criminal cases, the right expert can be invaluable. Whether it is a forensic accountant in a complex fraud or tax investigation; a medical or billing expert in a healthcare fraud investigation; a forensic psychiatrist for a sex abuse or child pornography case; a computer expert for a computer crimes matter; or a drug or gang expert in a serious drug case, the proper expert retained early in the investigation can assist the client’s criminal defense attorney in his or her efforts to prevent the charges from being filed, or to develop a solid defense to aid in plea negotiations or to prevail at trial.