Jack Venturi – Lawyer in New Brunswick – Wins Criminal Trial Practice Award

Criminal Trial Practice Award – New Brunswick, New Jersey

Jack Venturi, Esq.

Jack Venturi graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a BS from the University of Connecticut in 1972 and JD from New York University School of Law in 1975. Having been admitted as an attorney in New Jersey on December 2, 1975, Jack recently celebrated his 40th anniversary as an attorney. He began his long and distinguished career by representing indigent individuals accused of crimes as an Assistant Deputy Public Defender in Union County. In 1979, he was hired as an Associate at Wilentz, Goldman & Spitzer, PA in Woodbridge where he worked exclusively for the criminal defense practice department. In 1982, Jack opened his own office in New Brunswick where he has been practicing as a criminal defense attorney for the past 33 years.

Over the course of his career, Jack has successfully represented clients in thousands of cases including a number of high profile cases that have substantially impacted the practice of law in the criminal justice system. By way of example, in 1997, Jack represented Michael Behn who was accused of a murder that allegedly took place in South River. As a result of Jack’s efforts at the trial level, that conviction was overturned in 2005 by the Appellate Division which held that the trial court incorrectly allowed the prosecutors to introduce Comparative Bullet Lead Analysis evidence through the FBI which the Appellate Division ruled as junk science that falsely matches bullet fragments. Not long after, the FBI, having used CBLA since the 80’s in over 2500 cases, agreed that it was junk science and announced that they would stop using it in all cases.

In 2009, Jack was named Lawyer of the Year by the New Jersey Law Journal for using OPRA to pursue discovery that was initially denied by a trial court in a criminal case. By way of another example, just this past year in In Re A.B., the Appellate Division ruled that it is reversible error to deny a defendant the right to investigate a crime scene based on Jack’s tireless efforts to represent his client zealously and conduct a thorough investigation at the trial level. These are just a few examples of Jack’s body of work and how his professionalism has affected the practice of criminal law for the better by not only upholding individuals’ State and Federal Constitutional rights, but defining them through the practice of law.

Jack is regularly listed among the top 100 trial lawyers in New Jersey by the National Trial Lawyers Association, has been listed in the Top Ten Leaders of Criminal Defense Law from 2005 to present, has been listed in Super Lawyers of New Jersey from 2007 to present, has been Board Certified as Criminal Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy, and Strathmore’s Who’s Who named him “Professional of the Year” in the criminal law practice area in 2007. Recently, Jack has been informally ranked the “number one” criminal defense attorney by the Middlesex County Correctional Facility inmate population. Recognizing his experience and accomplishments, professional organizations frequently call upon Jack to speak and teach about a vast array of criminal law topics.

Jack is always called upon by colleagues, both defense attorneys and prosecutors, to discuss legal issues and learn from his experience and insight. He is constantly giving advice to members of the criminal justice community including public defenders and private defense attorneys in Middlesex and surrounding counties. His leadership in the area of criminal law, his significant contributions to the legal community, and his reputation for personal and professional integrity are undeniable.

By: Jonathan Cowles
Executive Director
Middlesex County Bar Association/Foundation

Simple and Aggravated Assault in New Jersey

Understanding the Difference between Simple and Aggravated Assault in New Jersey

Man arrested while wife watchesUnder the criminal laws of New Jersey, if you attempt to harm someone else, or if you intentionally cause injury to another person, you can be charged with assault. There are two levels of assault, though: simple assault and aggravated assault. Whether you will be charged with one or the other depends of a variety of factors.

Simple Assault

Under New Jersey law, you can be charged with simple assault for any of the following acts:

  • Intentionally or recklessly causing or attempting to cause another person to suffer bodily injury
  • Negligently or carelessly causing bodily injury by using anything defined by the statute as a “deadly weapon.”
  • Intentionally causing another person to fear impending or immediate bodily injury

Intentionally is defined under the law as acting either knowingly or purposefully. Your act will be considered reckless if there’s a “substantial and unjustifiable risk” of bodily injury as a result, and you consciously disregard that risk.

Your actions will be considered negligent if a reasonable person would not have done the same thing.

Aggravated Assault

The New Jersey statute identifies eleven specific situations where simple assault will be elevated to aggravated assault. They include:

  • An attempt to cause “serious” bodily injury
  • An intentional attempt to cause bodily injury using a deadly weapon
  • Recklessly causing bodily injury with a deadly weapon
  • Causing bodily injury while attempting to elude a law enforcement officer, or while unlawfully operating a motor vehicle
  • Intentionally pointing a firearm at another person
  • Attempting or causing bodily injury in a way that shows an extreme indifference to the value of human life
  • Starting a fire or causing an explosion that results in injury to an emergency services worker
  • Pointing a real or imitation firearm at a police officer
  • Committing a simple assault against anyone defined by New Jersey statute as afforded special status, such as law enforcement officers, firefighters, EMTs, judges, Youth and Family Services workers, corrections officials, teachers or school employees, bus or public transit operators, utility or health care workers
  • Using any laser device that simulates the laser sighting alignment systems on certain firearms

Contact Jack Venturi Law

Our team has the experience, skill, knowledge and resources to aggressively protect your rights. For a confidential consultation, contact us online or call us toll free at 732-247-3340.

The New Jersey No Early Release Act

About the No Early Release Act in New Jersey

Prisoner in handcuffsNew Jersey’s No Early Release Act has been in place for more than 15 years. Signed by then Governor Christine Todd Whitman in 1997, the law mandates that anyone who has been convicted of a first or second degree criminal offense that meets the definition of a “violent crime” under the terms of the statute must serve at least 85% of the sentence handed down by the court. In addition, anyone convicted of such an offense must complete a specific period of parole supervision after release.

In a study conducted approximately five years after the law went into effect, researchers looked at the impact of the law, examining its effect on prosecution and sentencing, as well as corrections and crime victims. Researchers found that the law has had little to no impact on whether prosecutors choose to change the charges filed against a person. Prosecutors in all but two jurisdictions indicated that they either never changed charges or that it was not common for them to do so.

However, prosecutors are given a significant amount of latitude in sentencing. Even though prosecutors did not generally change the types of charges, the study showed that prosecutors used the No Early Release Act to bring about longer periods of incarceration. In fact, because the statute required that 85% of the sentence be served, prosecutors could actually ask for shorter prison terms that resulted in longer periods of incarceration than under prior laws. Prosecutors have found that it’s easier to get a court to approve a shorter sentence, but the term of incarceration actually ends up to be longer.

The longer terms of incarceration have had unforeseen consequences. Prison officials reported increased populations, overcrowding and higher levels of disciplinary problems. Unfortunately, when the law went into effect, New Jersey was already under a state of emergency with respect to its prison populations.

The study did indicate that crime victims were generally more satisfied with the sentences handed out. Prior to enactment of the law, less than 50% of crime victims reported satisfaction with the sentence given. After passage of the law, nearly 70% believed that the sentences handed down were appropriate.

Contact Jack Venturi Law

We have the skill, knowledge, experience and resources to protect your constitutional rights in any criminal matter. To schedule an appointment, contact our office by e-mail or call us toll free at 732-247-3340.

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO)

Understanding RICO

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act is a federal statute enacted in 1970 that includes sanctions and extended sentences, as well as civil remedies, against persons convicted of performing or participating and activities that were part of an ongoing criminal organization. Originally passed as a part of the federal government’s effort to fight “organized crime,” the statute has been used in a wide range of criminal prosecutions, from prosecution of catholic bishops for sex abuse committed by priests in their charge to charges against the Key West police department for protecting cocaine and marijuana smugglers, from a civil action by a major league baseball owner against the commissioner and the sport to the prosecution of leaders of the Latin Kings, a Tampa-based street gang. Since the enactment of the federal law, a majority of states, including New Jersey, have passed similar state statutes.

Violation of RICO

To be charged with violation of the statute, a person must commit at least two acts of “racketeering” within a ten year period. There are 35 specific acts identified—27 federal crimes and eight state offenses. Among the offenses included are:

  • The violation of state laws regarding homicide, extortion, arson, gambling, kidnapping, bribery, robbery, pornography or controlled substances
  • Embezzlement of union funds
  • Money laundering or related crimes
  • Bankruptcy or securities fraud
  • Violation of federal statutes governing theft, bribery, embezzlement, slavery, obstruction of justice, gambling, pornography and fraud (as well as many other federal offenses)
  • Terrorist acts
  • The sale, distribution, importation or smuggling of illegal drugs

The Supreme Court has issued an opinion on what constitutes a “pattern of racketeering activity,” ruling that if certain acts have “the same or similar purposes, results, participants, victims, or methods of commission, or otherwise are interrelated by distinguishing characteristics,” they may be found to be in violation of RICO.

Contact Our Office

At Jack Venturi Law, we bring considerable skill, knowledge, experience and resources to criminal defendants across New Jersey. To schedule a private meeting, contact our office by e-mail or call us toll free at 732-247-3340.

The New Jersey Expungement Law

Expunging a Criminal Record in New Jersey

We all make mistakes. Unfortunately, when a mistake leads to a criminal charge or even a conviction, that mistake can haunt you for years, making it difficult to get the job you want, affecting your ability to live certain places, and even limiting your access to credit and financing. An expungement will allow you to remove and/or isolate all records on file with a court, law enforcement agency or correctional facility and will cover any issues related to arrest for or disposition of an offense. However, expungement in New Jersey is only available to qualified individuals. Here are the details.

Eligibility for Expungement

Certain types of crimes can never be expunged under New Jersey law. These include serious felonies, such as:

  • Criminal homicide (other than death by auto)
  • Aggravated sexual assault or sex crimes involving a child
  • Kidnapping, criminal restraint or false imprisonment
  • Arson
  • Robbery
  • Sale, distribution or possession with intent to distribute a controlled dangerous substance
  • Endangering the welfare of a child

There are some offenses that may be expunged the first (or even second) time, but won’t be eligible for expunction after that. If the offense is an indictable offense, you cannot have a subsequent indictable offense expunged. If you have been convicted of two or more disorderly person offenses, you may not obtain and expunction of any subsequent offenses.

There are a number of other factors that have an effect on whether you can obtain an expunction:

  • Are you seeking to eradicate an arrest or a conviction?
  • How long has it been since the arrest or conviction?
  • Have you had any encounters with the law since the arrest or conviction?
  • Did you meet all requirements of your sentence?
  • What was the sentence?

Contact Jack Venturi Law

Our team has the experience, skill, knowledge and resources to aggressively protect your rights. For a confidential consultation, contact us online or call us toll free at 732-247-3340.

Justice Department Censures Police Departments, Department of Defense Gives Them Weapons

Federal Government Chastises Police for Civil Rights Violations, But Provides Them with Military Weapons

Assault rifleIt appears that communication remains a problem within the federal government, as attested to by the existence of a Department of Defense program that allows local police departments to apply for and obtain lethal military weapons, even if they have been censured by the Department of Justice for civil rights violations.

The Department of Justice is tasked with investigating alleged civil rights violations by local law enforcement officers, and had conducted more than 20 such investigations in the last five years. In some instances, the investigations lead to sanctions, known as “consent decrees,” whereby the DOJ imposes and the police department agrees to make specific changes in policy, practice or procedure. According to critics, though, being cited for civil rights violations does not appear to disqualify law enforcement agencies for the free surplus military equipment doled out by the Department of Defense. The DOD official who oversees the program acknowledged to a Congressional committee that the department does not take civil rights violations into account when determining who receives weapons.

A DOD spokesperson said that the program was initially approved by Congress in the 1990s as part of the “war on drugs,” but has been expanded in recent years because of concerns about terrorism. She contends that there is a vetting process, that police departments “don’t say “we want it” and they get it.” She noted that more than one quarter of the requests in 2014 have been denied.

The issue has come to forefront after images of police responding to Ferguson rioters showed tear gas, riot gear and armored vehicles. Among the recipients of free weapons under the program are:

  • The Warren, Ohio, police department, sanctioned in 2012 for a pattern of excessive force, which requested and received 30 M16 rifles
  • The Washington, D.C., police department, found to have engaged in a pattern of excessive force for over a decade, received a shipment of semi-automatic weapons

Contact Our Office

At Jack Venturi Law, we bring considerable skill, knowledge, experience and resources to criminal defendants across New Jersey. To schedule a private meeting, contact our office by e-mail or call us toll free at 732-247-3340.

Florida Fires 32 Guards after Inmate Deaths

Inmate Deaths Lead to Investigation—32 Guards Fired

Inmate behind barsIn the wake of inmate deaths at seven prisons in Florida, the state’s Department of Corrections has conducted an investigation and terminated 32 guards. Department of Corrections Secretary Michael Crews told reporters that those terminated had been accused of either criminal misconduct or other wrongdoing.

The Florida penal system has received national attention in recent months after multiple requests that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of Darren Rainey, a mentally ill inmate in the Dade Correctional Institution in Miami. According to reports, Rainey was locked in a closet sized shower by guards and had near-boiling water poured over his body. He died two hour after the incident and medical examiners found that his skin had been separated from his body.

Howard Simon, executive director of Florida’s ACLU offices, asked Attorney General Holder to investigate, claiming that Florida officials were trying to cover up any details of Rainey’s death. Simon was joined in his request by Amnesty International, the Florida Council of Churches and a number of other human rights organizations.

According to Simon, Rainey’s death was consistent with a pattern of violence toward inmates in the Florida prison system, including reports of:

  • Guards denying food to the point of nearly starving inmates to death
  • Guards beating inmates unconscious while handcuffed
  • Guards paying inmates to beat up other inmates

Simon also points to another pattern within the prison system—a pattern of trying to cover up inmate deaths. Public records indicate that neither the Florida Department of Corrections nor the Miami-Dade police department properly investigated the circumstances surrounding Rainey’s death.

Corrections Department Secretary Crews acknowledged that the department had not been consistently holding guards and other employees accountable for criminal acts or wrongful behavior.

Contact Jack Venturi Law

Our team has the experience, skill, knowledge and resources to aggressively protect your rights. For a confidential consultation, contact us online or call us toll free at 732-247-3340.

Police Officers Receive Special Training for Working with Mentally Ill Suspects

Police Get Specialized Training for Dealing with Mentally Ill Suspects

Woman handcuffedIn light of increasing incidences of run-ins with mentally ill or unstable suspects, police departments across the country are setting up training for their officers to provide them with strategies for dealing with mentally ill persons.

In St. Louis, where law enforcement officers have been under national scrutiny after the shooting of Michael Brown and the subsequent rioting, officers regularly go through a weeklong “Crisis Intervention Training,” known as a CIT. The CIT concept arose in the late 1980s, in response to a public outcry after Memphis, Tennessee officers shot a man who was threatening suicide. Officials estimate that up to 3,000 police departments nationwide now have some form of crisis intervention training.

Experts attribute the increase in interactions with mentally ill persons to the loss of funding for many state mental health programs and the subsequent closure of a large number of state mental hospitals, putting many persons previously institutionalized on the streets. When those persons begin to experience problems, concerned citizens typically call law enforcement officers and police are forced to handle issues for which they have little training. As a consequence, they far too often respond with force, as they have been trained to do.

Participants in the training learn to use calming skills to defuse volatile situations, and are taught to avoid acts which might escalate tensions. But police acknowledge that behaviors are unpredictable and officers need to be concerned for their own safety and the safety of others. Those are the times when officers may conclude that the use of force is the best option. Studies show that, at least in St. Louis, force was used about four percent of the time, usually in the form of a Taser or some type of constraint.

Contact Jack Venturi Law

We have the skill, knowledge, experience and resources to protect your constitutional rights in any criminal matter. To schedule an appointment, contact our office by e-mail or call us toll free at 732-247-3340.

Federal Prison Population Down

Federal Policy Changes Lead to Reduction in Prison Population

Prison cellPointing to efforts to reduce mandatory sentences for non-violent offenders, as well at the impact of the Fair Sentencing Act, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced last month that officials expect a decline of 12,000 inmates in the federal prison system over the next two years. Officials have already seen a reduction of nearly 5,000 inmates over the last year.

Though the reduction is significant—the average federal prison holds approximately 1,500 inmates—Holder acknowledged that it would not likely lead to the closing of any federal penitentiaries, as many facilities are already overcrowded. Interestingly, the drop in the federal inmate population comes at a time when state prisons are showing increases. A study released in September indicates that state correctional facilities increased their numbers of inmate in 2013, the first time that has happened since 2009.

Most of the reduction has come from lighter sentencing for those charged with nonviolent offenses, such as drug crimes. The Fair Sentencing Act specifically reduced sentences for crimes related to crack cocaine. According to Attorney General Holder, the reduction in inmates will ease budget concerns without increasing the risk of violent crime. Said Holder, “Statistics have shown…that high incarceration rates and longer-than-necessary prison terms have not played a significant role in materially improving public safety, reducing crime or strengthening communities.”

In addition to implementing the Fair Sentencing Act, the U.S. Justice Department has also put a program in place that increases the number of persons recommended for presidential sentence commutations. Holder stressed that all those eligible for commutations were nonviolent offenders.

Contact Our Office

At Jack Venturi Law, we bring considerable skill, knowledge, experience and resources to criminal defendants across New Jersey. To schedule a private meeting, contact our office by e-mail or call us toll free at 732-247-3340.

Psychologists Want to Address Unconscious Racial Bias

Psychologists Look for Ways to Address Unconscious Racial Bias

Police officer writing citationWe all make judgments based on racial stereotypes, even when we work hard to pay attention to our actions. Psychologists content that it’s most often a subconscious act, the product of years of socialization and training, from parents and others. In light of a number of incidents involving white police officers and persons of color, psychologists and researchers have initiated investigations of the origin and character of subconscious racial bias, hoping to find ways to counteract our desire to label and categorize each other.

Researchers have long known about the unconscious inclination to racial bias, but are only now starting to find ways to combat it. One of the first hints that subconscious racial bias could be changed came in 2001, when a study found that racial prejudices could be temporarily changed by showing subjects pictures of well-known and respected persons of color alongside pictures of white persons perceived to be evil—a picture of Nelson Mandela next to a picture of Adolph Hitler. Before that study, psychologists believed subconscious racial bias to be unchangeable.

Calvin Lai, a doctoral psychology candidate at the University of Virginia, focuses his research on what he calls “de-biasing.” Earlier this year, he published the results of a variety of proposed “de-biasing” strategies, including:

  • The intentional use of empathy or asking subjects to “put themselves in the shoes of” a person they have some prejudice against
  • Educating subjects on the values of different cultures and their contributions to our common humanity
  • Asking subjects to focus on injustices committed by Caucasians against persons of color

Lai concluded that about half of the sixteen different approaches he tested had some impact, but the strategy that was most effective was consistent with the 2001 study—providing subjects with images that negate the stereotype. Lai could not, however, determine how long any of the different methods would work.

Contact Jack Venturi Law

Our team has the experience, skill, knowledge and resources to aggressively protect your rights. For a confidential consultation, contact us online or call us toll free at 732-247-3340.