Burlington County, NJ Law Blog

Monday, June 22, 2015

New Jersey State Police Ordered to Release Video Allegedly Depicting Assault

What happens if an alleged criminal perpetrator is subjected to unfair treatment by police in New Jersey? 

We are all aware of the old adage confirming all are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Sadly, however, criminal suspects are commonly subjected to punishment and brutality to a degree completely incongruent with the alleged crime – and the problem seems to be escalating across the United States. 

In New Jersey, police are not exempt from the rule that criminal suspects are to be treated fairly and safely for the duration of their arrest, holding, and incarceration period. In the event a police officer commits assaultive conduct against a suspect, the officer can – and should – be held to the same criminal standards as all other members of the civilian population, provided the maneuver in not considered self-defensive or in response to threats of force by a suspect. 

In one recent case involving both civil and criminal components, a New Jersey State police officer was indicted on criminal assault charges, as well as targeted civilly by the state’s Advance Media, following an incident of brutality – the details of which are discussed below. 

NJ Police Officer Ordered to Turn Over Dashboard Camera 

In July 2014, a New Jersey state police officer arrested a suspect following a high-speed vehicle chase through the Newark area. Once the suspect was handcuffed and fully subdued, the officer allegedly kicked the suspect directly in his head with his boot. Following a tip, New Jersey’s Advance Media requested a copy of the dashboard camera that recorded the incident – presumably for purposes of exposing the alleged instance of brutality. After months of stalling, the state police eventually refused to release the video, citing to the ongoing investigation. 

In March, 2015, the officer involved in the incident was convicted of simple assault because of the incident. Shortly thereafter, Advance Media sued the state police in civil court demanding the disclosure of the tape under the Open Public Records Act. Finally, in June, 2015, the judge ordered the tape be released and concluded that a dashboard camera is not a protected “criminal investigatory record” akin to other types of records obtained following a criminal charge. More specifically, the judge highlighted that “State Police policy requires the officers to create dash cam recordings in motor vehicle stops.”

If you are concerned about a recent incident involving state or local police, or are in need of the immediate help of a criminal defense attorney, please do not hesitate to contact the Burlington County attorneys at Sitzler and Sitzler today by calling (609)267-1101. 

Monday, June 1, 2015

South Jersey Woman Charged With Promoting Fake Concert

What are the charges if you sell tickets to a fake event?

A south Jersey woman is accused of selling fake concert tickets to more than 200 people.  The concert was supposed be headlined by Sheryl Crow.  Tickets were being sold for $65.00 a piece.  Medford Township Police and Lumberton Township Police got involved to coordinate public safety for the event.  When they contacted the venue, the Flying W Airport in Medford, they discovered inconsistencies that led them to the discovery that Sheryl Crow was not actually booked for the event.  The concert promoter was arrested and charged with theft by deception and deceptive business practices.  

Investigators claim that the concert promoter, 42 year old Kelly Bryan of Burlington Township, confessed to selling tickets to the concert knowing that Sheryl Crow would not be performing.  Medford Police Chief Richard Meder “It started out as a legitimate event but Sheryl Crow was just never part of this event, even though it was being advertised that she was the headliner.”  

The Flying W Airport released a statement denying any involvement with the promotion of the concert.  They deny selling any tickets and they say they have cooperated fully with the Lumberton Police Department.

If you are suspected in a police investigation of any kind you need an attorney to advise you of your rights.  An attorney can give you the information you need to avoid an improper criminal prosecution before it starts.  At Sitzler & Sitzler, our criminal defense attorneys have the experience necessary to help you get through the pitfalls common in a criminal case.  We have been representing clients in Burlington County criminal courts for years.  If you have been accused of a crime, call us at (609) 267-1101 today.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Violence Erupts at Mother’s Day Event in Newark

What charges will the suspect probably face?

Every Mother’s Day, a group of motorcycle enthusiasts get together to celebrate the warm weather and the beginning of the riding season at an event called “The Blessing of the Bikes.” This year, as the event was drawing to a close, gunshots rang out injuring three people and killing 15 year old Al-Shakeen Woodson.  

It is not clear whether the Newark Knights Motorcycle Club, who organized the event, had obtained the proper permits to hold the celebration.  It is also unclear who the intended target of the shooting was, although it is unlikely that it was 15-year-old Woodson as “He never got in trouble,” his father said, “He just came over here to watch the bikes.”

While the mayor’s office blamed the size of the event, others indicated that reason is not a factor when discussing senseless violence.  The police, who were present at the event, are currently seeking at least two gunmen.  The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office Chief of Detectives spoke on the matter, “The investigation is active.  We are combing the streets.  We are out there at the scene right now looking for evidence and looking for witnesses to come forward.”  This is the 29th homicide so far this year in Newark.

This is a high profile case and the police are under significant pressure to find a suspect and get a conviction as our criminal justice system places the burden of proof of guilt on the prosecution.  Only an experienced defense attorney can make sure that you receive a fair trial if you stand accused of a violent crime.  If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges, call the experienced criminal defense lawyers at Sitzler and Sitzler at (609) 267-1101 today.  

Monday, May 11, 2015

New Jersey Teacher Charged With Multiple Crimes Following Consensual Relationship With 18-Year-Old Student

Do New Jersey sex crimes laws apply to teacher-student relationships when the student is 18 years old or older? 

New Jersey’s sex crime laws are purposely designed in a multi-faceted manner to address the variety of situations in which perpetrators and victims may find themselves. In other words, there is no one-size-fits-all criminal charge for sexual misconduct, and the facts of the situation will become highly relevant in determining an appropriate charge given the unique scenario at hand. 

Take, for instance, a recent incident at New Jersey's Mendham High School in Morris County. According to the preliminary details, a 32-year-old English teacher was charged with three counts of sexual misconduct amid allegations she engaged in sexual intercourse with a student in 2013. However, unlike many other teacher-student scandals to grace the New Jersey news media, this one is different in one important aspect: the student was an adult. 

Indisputably, the facts surrounding the clandestine relationship support the notion that at no time during the alleged relations was either party a minor. Sounds like a total win for the defendant, right? Maybe not. 

Under New Jersey law, sexual misconduct crimes can encompass more than just the age of the parties, and often take into account the nature of the relationship both before and during the encounter. One major issue, prosecutors contend, is the implied authority of a teacher over a student, thereby making any personal and/or sexual relationship categorically improper.

Naturally, criminal law attorneys for the defendant contend that the relationship may have been in poor taste – and undoubtedly an infringement of her teaching contract and school board policies – but it is certainly not a criminal matter. Counsel further contends that the proposed five-year sentence is exceptionally out of line given the facts of the case, and that no minor child was engaged in the relationship at any time. 

Contact a reputable New Jersey criminal law attorney today

If you are facing possible sex crime charges in New Jersey, or would like to discuss your rights under New Jersey’s criminal laws, contact Sitzler & Sitzler today by calling our Burlington County office at (609)267-1101. Our experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense attorneys are ready to assist you. 

Friday, May 8, 2015

New Jersey Man Denied Right to Own Gun 15 Years after Domestic Violence Charge

I have a domestic violence charge (but no conviction) on my criminal history report. How does this affect my right to own firearms? 

The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution bestows upon us all the right to keep and bear arms. Keep in mind, however, this right is subject to a laundry list of exceptions – some of which are considerably more restrictive and archaic than others. 

One of the most common hindrances to firearm ownership – in New Jersey and elsewhere – is the existence of a criminal background, especially if the offense involved violence or misuse of a weapon. However, New Jersey courts are apparently working to eliminate any distinction between an actual conviction and a mere criminal charge. As you well know, being charged with a crime requires nothing more than probable cause, whereas a conviction is only possible if a judge and jury conclude, as a matter of fact and law, the defendant did commit the underlying offenses.

Nonetheless, an appellate court upheld the denial of an application to purchase a firearm, citing a domestic violence charge of which the applicant was acquitted in 1998. Without much explanation, the denial cited a “public safety concern,” and the applicant quickly appealed the decision.

Gun rights in New Jersey

Firearm ownership laws in Burlington County and throughout the state have always been somewhat of a quagmire, as any criminal law attorney will undoubtedly attest. Interestingly, the Garden State is one of just six U.S. states without a state constitutional right to bear arms, and authorities have seemingly worked tirelessly to place unrelenting restrictions on the average citizen seeking to exercise those rights afforded at the federal level. 

With regard to criminal histories, the New Jersey statutes make clear that the existence of an assaultive criminal conviction on one’s record will operate as a prohibition to purchasing and possessing a firearm. Moreover, N.J.S.A. 13:54-1.5 states that the conviction of any crime, or a disorderly persons offense involving an act of domestic violence shall be a hindrance to lawful gun ownership – regardless of whether the perpetrator was armed at the time of the offense. 

If you are facing difficulty with regard to a firearm, criminal background, or other criminal law issue, contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Sitzler & Sitzler today by calling (609)267-1101.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Task Force Takes Down Massive Drug Ring

How does law enforcement investigate drug networks?

A major drug trafficking ring that operated in more than one county has been successfully disrupted by a law enforcement task force. There were approximately 30,000 doses of heroin being distributed each month. Nineteen arrests have been made, and a warrant is out for a 20th individual.

The Atlantic City Task Force (ACTF) conducted an eight-month investigation into this drug network based in Pleasantville and reaching into Atlantic and Ocean counties. Led by the New Jersey Attorney General's office, the ACTF is comprised of various federal, state, county and local law enforcement agencies. It has made nearly 600 arrests since being formed and seized guns and drugs.

In this case, the ACTF seized 16,000 doses of heroin and more than $52,000 in cash. Members of this drug ring allegedly employed a juvenile to sell heroin and conducted transactions in front of children. They allegedly accepted public assistance subsidies in exchange for drugs, and the heroin contained the deadly cutting agent fentanyl. Those arrested thus far have been charged with multiple crimes including drug possession, conspiracy to distribute heroin, endangering the welfare of a child and food stamp fraud.

The ACTF had top members of the massive drug ring under surveillance and closed in when two deputies met with two suppliers in Paterson. Investigators seized a purse with almost $24,000 in cash that was being used to purchase the heroin, then executed a search warrant of a vehicle and discovered a duffel bag with 10,000 bags of heroin. Subsequent search warrants at various locations led to more drugs and cash. Six vehicles were also seized.

If you or a loved one is facing drug charges in South Jersey, the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Sitzler & Sitzler can help. Whether your case proceeds to trial or we can negotiate a resolution, our team of knowledgeable attorneys will zealously advocate for you. Contact our Burlington County, New Jersey office today at (609)267-1101.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Woman Facing Gun Charges Pardoned By Governor Christie

How strict are New Jersey gun laws?

A Philadelphia woman was driving down the shore to celebrate her young son's birthday when she was stopped by a New Jersey state trooper in Hamilton Township for a lane change. She told the officer that she had a gun loaded with hollow-point bullets in her purse. She had purchased and legally registered the gun in Pennsylvania because she worked odd hours and had been robbed twice. Still, she was arrested and charged with illegally bringing a concealed weapon into New Jersey; she faced up to five years in prison.

New Jersey gun laws are among the strictest in the nation. Even if this woman's gun had been registered in New Jersey, it is required to be transported unloaded and locked in the vehicle's trunk. But, the gun was not registered in New Jersey, and at first, prosecutors wanted to make an example out of this case to deter others from bringing guns registered elsewhere into the state.

Eventually, the woman was allowed to enter a pretrial intervention program that required her to give up her gun and complete 25 hours of community service rather than go to jail. Instead, Governor Christie pardoned the woman from all criminal charges, which will expunge her record and allow her to be a gun owner again.

The governor's pardon was a welcome end to this woman's ordeal. She had spent 40 days in Atlantic County jail before posting bail on her charges. Her case had the attention of gun rights advocates and organizations. Governor Christie has made clear that he will use executive tools such as pardons since the legislature is not changing the state's gun laws.

If you or a loved one is facing weapons charges, the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Sitzler & Sitzler can help. We represent clients throughout Southern New Jersey in a wide variety of misdemeanor (disorderly person charge) and felony (indictable charge) cases. Contact our Hainesport, New Jersey office today at (609)267-1101.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

New Jersey Crime Report Yields Mixed Results

How are crime rates in Burlington County?

New Jersey's most recent Uniform Crime Report revealed that the state's overall crime rate fell 7 percent in 2013, and preliminary data for 2014 indicates a 7.7 percent decrease. While Burlington County's overall crime rate also fell (by 3 percent), violent crime was up by 6 percent. The county's overall crime rate, measuring victims per 1,000 people, was 18.7 (compared, for example, with the highest rate of 33.9 in Camden County).

Elsewhere in the state, drug crime continues to plague Newark, but citizens are providing anonymous tips that are leading to arrests and the recovery of weapons and drugs. One recent investigation led to a rooftop chase after police entered a home and observed a man wearing a backpack climbing out of a third-story window. When he was apprehended, his backpack was found to contain 300 grams of cocaine, 100 grams of MDMA (also known as Molly) and three loaded guns. A subsequent search of the home led police to discover 450 rounds of ammunition, high capacity magazines, a bulletproof vest, two pounds of marijuana and a small amount of heroin. Police also found scales and paraphernalia used for the processing and sale of drugs, and almost $7,000 in cash.

To more effectively combat crime, some police departments in Burlington County utilize Data-Driven Approach to Crime and Traffic Safety zones. Law enforcement uses location-based crime and traffic data to guide deployment. Evesham Township police recently made a traffic stop that led to the discovery of drugs and a loaded handgun.

If you or a loved one is facing drug charges, the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Sitzler and Sitzler can help. We represent clients throughout Southern New Jersey in a wide variety of misdemeanor (disorderly person charge) and felony (indictable charge) cases. Contact our Hainesport, New Jersey office today at (609) 267-1101.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Law Relating to Child Pornography

What are Child Pornography Laws?

Any criminal charge involving child pornography is serious and demands the attention of an experienced criminal defense attorney. The state and federal laws are strict, and potential punishments are severe.

It is illegal under New Jersey state law to possess, view, distribute, share, receive, photograph or allow a child to engage in child pornography. The state law defines a child as anyone younger than 16 years old. Penalties for a conviction vary on the particular charge and can range from 18 months to 20 years, with the fines ranging from $10,000 to $200,000. Most convictions will lead to registration on the state’s Sex Offender List.

Child pornography is also subject to federal law. Child pornography is defined under federal law as any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving someone under 18 years of age. The image need not be of sexual activity; it can be illegal if it is sufficiently sexually suggestive. Federal law prohibits the production, distribution, reception and possession of an image of child pornography using or affecting any means or facility of interstate or foreign commerce. Federal agencies can get involved when the offense occurred in interstate or foreign commerce, including the use of the U.S. Post Office, common carriers or the Internet to transmit images. A first time offender convicted of transporting child pornography in interstate or foreign commerce faces fines and a statutory minimum of five to twenty years in prison.

Arrests for child pornography are not uncommon. A North Plainfield man was arrested after a joint investigation by local and federal law enforcement. He allegedly had more than 1,300 image files of child pornography on his computer. Officials claim the images were available through a file sharing network. The man is facing charges of distribution of child pornography and endangering the welfare of a child/possession of child pornography.

If you or a family member has been charged with a child pornography crime, the Burlington County, New Jersey criminal defense attorneys at Sitzler & Sitzler have the experience needed to effectively represent you. Contact us at (609)267-1101 today.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Counterfeit Money Circulating Around the Tri-state Area

Can I be arrested for using counterfeit money I thought was genuine?

It is estimated that there could be hundreds of millions of dollars of counterfeit cash circulating in the United States. Currently, there are counterfeit hundred dollar bills circulating through New Jersey, New York and Connecticut.

You may have some of the counterfeit money, or used it, and not even realized it. The fake bills are believed to have been created in New York City and circulated at area suburban malls. Law enforcement believes the counterfeiters take one dollar bills and bleach them to remove all the ink. Then, having the proper paper to use for cash, the counterfeiters use high-tech printers to print bogus $100 bills. One operation was discovered during a drug raid when police found one dollar bills in the process of being stripped clean of ink.

The bills appear to be legitimate at first glance and feel like the real thing. The counterfeit cash is being passed off as pre-1996 bills. After that year, security bands and watermarks became part of currency making it more difficult to counterfeit.

Counterfeiting  is a federal crime, but if you had one of these bills in your possession and tried to use it without knowing it was counterfeit, that should not break the law. The prosecution would have the burden to prove that you had the intent to defraud or pass counterfeit bills.

If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges, the experienced Burlington County, NJ criminal defense attorneys at Sitzler & Sitzler can help. We handle federal cases as well as New Jersey criminal matters. Call us today at (609)267-1101 for a consultation.

Friday, January 23, 2015

New Jersey Basketball Player Arrested for Domestic Violence

How Can Criminal Convictions and Charges Impact Your Life?

A former, once promising NBA prospect and Bergen Catholic hoops star, Sean Banks, was arrested in January on domestic violence charges.
Read more . . .

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