Criminal Defense

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.

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 . . .

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Five Men Arrested in Alleged New Jersey Drug Ring

What type of charges could you face if you sell drugs to an undercover police officer?

Law enforcement usually invests a lot of time and resources into the investigation of drug conspiracies.  These investigations often involve the use of undercover tactics and can go on for years.  As such, authorities have already compiled a great deal of information and evidence before even making an arrest in these types of cases, making them difficult to fight.  Recently, police arrested five men in New Jersey who are accused of participating in a drug ring as a result of this type of investigation.

The New Jersey State Police, in conjunction with the United States Drug Enforcement Agency, arrested Juan Gutierrez-Valencia in July after he agreed to sell two kilograms of methamphetamine to an undercover officer and showed the officer the drugs.  He then tried to run, driving his car in the direction of police causing them to shoot him in the arm.  Authorities found large quantities are drugs and a stolen handgun in the car.  He has been charged with a number of serious drug crimes including possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, conspiracy and gun charges.

Four other men allegedly involved in the same operation were arrested the next day after two of the men agreed to sell an undercover officer a large amount of heroin out of a residence.  The police searched the house finding large quantities of drugs and tools for distribution.  All four men in the house were arrested.  The same two men who agreed to sell the drugs to the officer in this incident are also charged with selling drugs to another undercover using a runner earlier in the year.  

Depending upon the degree of the crimes each of the men are charged with, they could be facing up to 20 years in prison and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.  All of the men are Mexican and could be deported if found guilty.  State officials have commented stating that they will continue to aggressively pursue drug traffickers and distributors in the state of New Jersey.  

Drug crimes are quite common but are often serious and can lead to long prison sentences and high fines.  As many arrests are made after long term investigations, defendants require an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent them against the sometimes overwhelming evidence.  The Burlington, County New Jersey criminal defense attorneys at Sitzler & Sitzler can help.  If you have been accused of a drug crime or any other type of crime call us at (609)267-1101 today.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Warrant Requirement to Obtain Cell Phone Records Challenged in New Jersey

Can the police obtain cell phone records without a warrant?

Many of us rely on our cell phone everyday to stay connected.  While we think that our use is private, there is a record of almost everything we do on our mobile devices, including calls and internet use.  If we are accused of a crime, these records can be obtained by the police and used against us.  A pending New Jersey case might play a role in lessening the requirements that must be met in order for law enforcement to obtain these records.

Currently in the state of New Jersey, law enforcement must obtain a warrant in order to request the telephone billing records of a suspect or defendant.  This means that the officers must seek a judge’s approval before obtaining records of this kind.  In a recent case involving a young Asbury Park man accused of cocaine distribution, the New Jersey Attorney General is attempting to eliminate the warrant requirement for telephone billing records.  The Attorney General’s office wants to replace the warrant requirement with a provision making a grand jury subpoena enough to request these records.

A warrant requires probable cause meaning that there must be reason to believe that a crime has been or is being committed.  In order to obtain a grand jury subpoena, the standard is much lower.  While this would make it easier for law enforcement officers to do their job, it is no doubt an infringement on the persons Constitutional privacy rights.  Also, unless the person is indicted, there would be no way to tell what information law enforcement received from these records.

The Attorney General’s office is relying on recent cases finding that a grand jury subpoena is enough to request other types of evidence.  But, up to this point, the warrant requirement for cell phone records has been affirmed.  It is also worth noting that new encryption efforts by some cell phone and internet companies might make this case irrelevant, as the providers would refuse to give up the information even when faced with a warrant.

If you have been accused of a crime involving cellular billing records, the Burlington County, New Jersey criminal defense attorneys at Sitzler and Sitzler can help.  For a free consultation, call us at (609)267-1101 today. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

New Jersey Man Appealing Marijuana Conviction After Serving Sentence

The drug laws in this country are constantly changing.  Marijuana, which has been decriminalized for a number of years, has been legalized for medical and even recreational use in some states.  In other states, people have done, are doing or are facing hard time for crimes involving the drug.  Some individuals, like a controversial New Jersey man, are challenging their convictions.  

Edward Forchion, a.k.a. N.J. Weedman and past Congressional hopeful, is a Rastafarian who was arrested for possession of marijuana in 2010. During a traffic stop, police found one pound of the drug in the trunk of his car and arrested him for possession.  He served nearly nine months in jail as a result of his conviction but has decided to continue his appeal nonetheless.  

Forchion is being assisted by an attorney but proceeding with his case pro se and has based his appeal on various points.  He claims that the New Jersey medical marijuana law is in direct conflict with the criminal law.  He also alleges that the marijuana laws cause discrimination as four times as many African Americans face convictions for marijuana as compared to Caucasians.  Forchion has also added that his conviction should have been stayed when he was receiving medical treatment and even a claim juror bias relating to his Congressional bid.  

The New Jersey criminal law still holds that possession of marijuana is illegal and it is unlikely that anything but legislative action will change that in the near future.  Whether or not that will happen is unclear.

Drug crimes, even those involving marijuana, are serious matters and can lead to long sentences.  If you have been arrested for or charged with a drug crime it is important that you consult with an attorney right away in order to preserve your rights.  The Burlington County, New Jersey criminal defense attorneys at Sitzler and Sitzler can help you.  Contact us at (609)267-1101 for a consultation today. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

New Jersey Drug-Trafficking Ring, Including Former County Officer, Arrested

Forty people were arrested in southern New Jersey in the bust of a drug trafficking ring that distributed heroin and crack cocaine throughout the state.  The raids netted ringleaders, dealers, users, and a former police officer and her husband.  

A months-long investigation led to the execution of five search warrants in several New Jersey locations.  State, county and local law-enforcement officials were involved, as well as the DEA.  Officials announced the seizure of three vehicles, 8,000 bags of heroin, 1,000 bags of crack cocaine, and ten pounds of marijuana, as well as cash and firearms.  Though the network was based in Camden, New Jersey, the drugs sold by the ring are said to have reached buyers in Burlington, Gloucester and Ocean Counties.

Former Camden County Police Officer, Ashley Bailey, allegedly warned members of the ring when they were targets of law enforcement and shared confidential information from department briefings.  She faces a sentence of as much as 30 years for official misconduct, weapons possession, conspiracy, and terroristic threats.  Her husband, charged with conspiracy, was also involved in the drugs ring and is the brother of one of the ring's leaders.  

Three leaders of the organization could receive 20 years in prison.  Charges against them include leading a narcotics trafficking network, conspiracy, possession of a Controlled Dangerous Substance (CDS), and possession with intent to distribute a CDS.  One also faces a charge of attempted murder for a shooting in April.  A fourth is still at large.

Nine others face lesser charges, including conspiracy, possession of a CDS, and possession with intent to distribute. Seventeen drug buyers were charged with possession or other offenses, while eight more were charged with attempted possession and other crimes.

Though the drugs seized are said to have a street value of approximately $85,000, investigators believe the ring took in as much as $1.2 million annually.  One leader of the network is said to have sold about 5,000 bags of heroin or cocaine weekly.

The roundup is a reminder to everyone involved in illegal drugs, from kingpins to dealers to users, that an arrest is always a possibility.  For some, the penalties may be ruinous.  Whatever your role or level of participation, if you are swept up in a drugs bust, you need expert, effective criminal defense counsel on your side.  The Burlington County, New Jersey criminal defense attorneys at Sitzler and Sitzler have extensive experience with drug arrests of all kinds and can help you make the best of a challenging situation.  For a free consultation, call us immediately at (609) 267-1101. 


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Death of Mayor's Son Could Involve Drugs and Lead to Homicide Charges

Police have arrested a man whom they suspect of involvement in the death of William Akers, son of the mayor of Seaside Heights, New Jersey.   

Responding to a call, they found the victim unconscious, surrounded by narcotics and drug paraphernalia.  Interviews with witnesses, acquaintances and family members led investigators to Jason Brinson, whom they have charged with possession of narcotics and possession with intent to distribute.  They did not specify publicly exactly what types of drugs were found at the scene. 

The toxicology tests that are underway will help investigators understand how Akers died.  If it emerges that he died of a drug overdose, additional charges could be brought.  New Jersey has a "Strict Liability for Drug-Induced Death" law, which allows prosecutors to charge someone who manufactured or sold certain dangerous drugs with homicide if those substances result directly in a drug user's death.  Drugs covered by the statute include heroin, cocaine and methamphetamines. 

Before any strict liability prosecution could proceed, the medical examiner would have to rule that the death was drug-induced.  A spokesman for the prosecutor's office declined to say whether Brinson supplied drugs to the victim or whether the two just used them together.

Drug possession and drug distribution are serious crimes potentially involving long prison terms.  As this incident shows, the penalties can escalate when a drug user dies.  If you are a suspect in a drugs case, or if you have been arrested, experienced defense counsel can advise you on how to get the best possible result and avoid making a difficult situation worse.  The  Burlington County, New Jersey criminal attorneys at Sitzler & Sitzler have expertise handling all aspects of drug crimes and the charges that may result, including homicide.  Call us at (609) 267-1101 for a free confidential consultation or request a consultation online.

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