As discussed in a prior post, the Department of Justice has formed a nationwide task force comprised of AUSAs from each of the 93 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, as well as Main Justice. Together they total more than 100 federal prosecutors, to investigate and prosecute fraud related to the ongoing pandemic. The District of New Jersey U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito spearheads this effort.
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.
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.
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.
With our societal addiction to the internet, smartphones, and computers, today’s teens face growing exposure to new forms of harassment and bullying. These can sometimes lead to criminal charges for those engaging in this conduct, and potentially anxiety, depression and, suicidal thoughts for the recipients.
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.