I previously wrote about the ever-declining number of federal criminal trials due to the trial penalty: the additional months or even years added to a sentence after a conviction at trial, as compared to resolving the case by a plea agreement. This article focuses on another factor contributing to the trial penalty: punishment based upon acquitted conduct.
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.”
Recent statistics show that about 96% of the criminal cases in federal court are resolved through guilty pleas. The number of cases going to trial has dramatically decreased in the past ten years. Thus, today’s criminal defense attorneys must be adept at negotiating the best possible resolution for their clients that choose to plead guilty.
When New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal issued a memorandum yesterday ordering local prosecutors to temporarily halt marijuana prosecutions in municipal courts until September, news outlets, including the New York Times, called it a possible "step toward decriminalization." Amol Sinha, American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey executive director, praised the move, stating that "[b]y directing prosecutors to pause adjudication of marijuana cases, this letter starts that [decriminalization] process." Marijuana trade magazines were even more effusive.
New Jersey’s criminal harassment statute has long occupied the space in which the messiest family law disputes cross over into the realm of criminal law. Although there are indeed many legitimate cases of harassment that deserve punishment, in recent years New Jersey appellate courts increasingly had noted that the harassment statute too often criminalized “ordinary domestic contretemps” – i.e. the non-violent verbal sparring that accompanies the disintegration of a marriage or romantic relationship. In the view of the courts (and many frustrated family law and criminal attorneys), New Jersey’s harassment statute was too permissive in allowing an angry spouse or romantic partner to file criminal or civil domestic violence charges after being subjected to hurtful or vile insults, even where there had been no actual violence or threat of harm.
Facing serious criminal charges, or being told that you are a subject or target of a criminal investigation, can be extremely stressful and unnerving. It is common to feel overwhelmed and uncertain what to ask in your consultation with a criminal defense attorney. Below are some of the major questions a prospective client should ask the attorney.
I’ve posted before about the line of case following United States v. Trujllo-Alvarez, 900 F. Supp. 2d 1167 (D.Or. 2012), which held that ICE could not detain and attempt to remove a non-citizen defendant charged with the federal crime of illegal re-entry, once the defendant has been released under the Bail Reform Act. Trujillo and its progeny affirm that when the Executive Branch decides that it will defer removal and deportation in favor of first proceeding with a federal criminal prosecution, it is obligated to follow all applicable laws governing such prosecution, including, of course, the Bail Reform Act. Once the Secretary of Homeland Security opts for prosecution over deportation, and invokes the jurisdiction of the district court, that court has priority, and administrative deportation proceedings stall until and unless the criminal prosecution concludes or is dismissed. United States v. Blas, Crim. Action No. 13-378, 2013 WL 5317228, at *3 (S.D. Ala. Sept. 20, 2013). In United States v. Galitsa, 17 Cr. 324 (VEC), Judge Caproni followed the Trujillo-Alvarez reasoning, as did Judge Irizzary in United States v. Rosario Ventura, 17-cr-418, in the Eastern District of New York, holding that the Government must either release the defendant under the bond conditions set in the matter and proceed with prosecution, or dismiss the indictment and proceed with removal.
The police stop you for an alleged driving infraction – speeding, failure to stay in lane, tinted windows – and while talking with you the officer smells the odor of marijuana. The officer asks you to step out of the car, searches the car and finds drugs. You contact a criminal defense attorney to defend you and explore the possibility of a motion to suppress the search. If you are the driver of a personal vehicle or the owner, you have what is known as an expectation of privacy and “standing” to suppress the search. However, if you are a passenger of the vehicle, or the driver of a rental car that was rented by a friend or family member and you are not listed on the rental agreement, you may lack standing to challenge the search of the vehicle.
Facing legal challenges from both gun rights advocates as well as the criminal defense bar, New Jersey Attorney General Christopher Porrino on October 20, 2017 issued a memorandum to prosecutors and police departments halting the enforcement of criminal laws that prohibit the possession, manufacture, and shipment of “electronic arms” such as stun guns and Tasers. The legal challenges to New Jersey’s stun gun laws were triggered by a 2016 decision of the Supreme Court of the United States, Caetano v. Massachusetts, in which the Court applied the Second Amendment to strike down a Massachusetts law that prohibited the mere possession of stun guns, even if possessed for self-defense.
Criminal defense attorneys representing non-citizen defendants are obligated to provide advice regarding the immigration consequences of a plea or guilty verdict. The Supreme Court’s decision in Padilla made it clear that failure to do so constitutes ineffective assistance of counsel.