Burlington County, NJ Law Blog

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

‘Real Housewives’ Star Skirts "Son of Sam" Laws; Plans Return to Bravo Network From Behind Bars

What are “Son of Sam” laws? 

A review of current Son of Sam laws within New Jersey and elsewhere reveals a fascinating historical look at how these “gag laws” came to be, and how they have been consistently challenged under the First Amendment from a free speech perspective almost from the beginning. 

As a practitioner of New Jersey criminal defense, it is vital to understand how Son of Sam laws affect current and former clients – as New Jersey actually disbanded, then reintroduced, its Son of Sam legislation in 2003. And, as recent media reports have confirmed, Real Housewives of New Jersey convictee Teresa Giudice is expected to make a triumphant return to the Bravo Network from behind bars – prompting many to ponder the legality of this move. 

As a foundational principle, Son of Sam laws prevent those convicted of a crime from profiting from that crime. The laws are so-named based on the infamous serial killer David Berkowitz – nicknamed the ‘Son of Sam’ – who was allegedly approached by dozens of publishers and news outlets interests in featuring his story. The laws are highly controversial in nature, particularly from a free speech perspective – specifically with regard to the rights of the public to know the truth behind some of the most prolific criminals in history. However, states – including New Jersey – have also advanced the argument that there is a compelling reason not to allow any person convicted of a crime to directly or indirectly profit from that crime. According to this reasoning any profits realized therefrom should be immediately forwarded to the victim. 

In the case of Teresa Giudice, however, it is unlikely that the New Jersey statute – or a federal counterpart – would work to preclude her from speaking generally about her experiences with the criminal justice system. While the statute expressly forbids directly or indirectly profiting from the crime, it does not explicitly prevent convictees from discussing their perceptions, interpretations, or feelings about the situation – as is likely to be the focus of any upcoming cable network coverage.

For comprehensive criminal defense in New Jersey, please do not hesitate to contact Sitzler & Sitzler right away: (609) 267-1101. 

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