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The Validity of Field Sobriety Tests

Validity-of-Field-Sobriety-Tests

When you have been pulled over on the road in New Jersey, for any legal reason, and the police officer suspects that you may be operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, one of the first things you may be asked to do is submit to a field sobriety test. The purpose of the field sobriety test is ostensibly to help the officer determine whether you exhibit the behavior of someone whose ability to drive is impaired.

The Different Types of Field Sobriety Tests

There are generally three different types of tests that police officers in New Jersey will use to determine impairment: the horizontal gaze nystagmus, the one leg stand, and the walk and turn:

  • The horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN)—A nystagmus is an involuntarily bouncing or jerking of the eye. Because alcohol affects the nervous system, persons who have consumed alcohol have difficulty controlling side-to-side eye movement.
  • The one-leg stand—This test requires that you stand with your feet together and arms at your side until instructed by the officer. You must then raise a leg six inches and keep your foot pointed out, keeping your eye on your foot at all times. You cannot be asked to hold that position for more than 30 seconds.
  • The walk and turn—With this test, you must walk a straight line, heel to toe, and then turn and walk back.

The Validity of Field Sobriety Tests in New Jersey

In New Jersey, the horizontal gaze nystagmus test may not be entered as evidence of intoxication. However, both the walk and turn and the one-leg stand are admissible, if administered properly. Both have been found to be an accurate predictor of intoxication in two of every three cases.

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 866-339-7801. We represent clients throughout Middlesex County, Union County, Mercer County, Monmouth County, Essex County and Somerset County.

Can You Challenge a Traffic Stop in New Jersey?

Challenge-a-Traffic-Stop

You’ve been pulled over by New Jersey law enforcement officers, submitted to a blood alcohol test and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol after registering a level of intoxication above the legal limit. Should you simply plead guilty and accept the consequences? Not necessarily…if there are legitimate grounds to challenge the traffic stop, you may be able to have the charges dismissed.

Under the U.S. Constitution, all persons have a right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. For a search to be considered reasonable, law enforcement officers must show that probable cause existed. With respect to a traffic stop, that means that the police officer must have either witnessed illegal activity or have a reasonable belief that you have or are in the process of committing an illegal act. It’s important to understand that the officer need not suspect that you have been drinking and driving—any traffic violation is sufficient to pull you over. In addition, if you match the profile of a person sought by the police for another crime, that can constitute probable cause.

The police cannot, pursuant to the 4th Amendment, make random traffic stops to determine whether a law has been broken. However, a roadblock haw been held to constitute a legal search, as all motorists are potentially subject to the same actions. In fact, it’s not necessary that police stop every vehicle, as long as the basis for determining which cars will be stopped is neutral and predetermined (for example, every third car).

Once you have been detained, the police officer has the right to ask you questions. Unless and until the officer takes you into custody, there’s no right to read you the Miranda warnings established by the U.S. Supreme Court. Those warnings include the disclosure that anything you say can be used against you in court, as well as notification of your right to have an attorney present for all questioning. If you are arrested, but the officer waits to read you your rights until you arrive at the police station, anything you say during the ride to the station will generally be inadmissible.

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 866-339-7801. We represent clients throughout Middlesex County, Union County, Mercer County, Monmouth County, Essex County and Somerset County.

The Different Murder Charges in New Jersey

Different-Murder-Charges

In an earlier blog, we looked at the different criminal charges that can be prosecuted after a homicide, the most serious being murder. But there are different types and degrees of murder. Let’s take a closer look at murder and help you understand the difference between first-degree murder, second-degree murder and felony murder.

Murder Defined

Murder, as it evolved through the common law in England and subsequently in the United States, has three components:

  • The defendant must act with intent
  • The killing must not be lawful or legally justified
  • The perpetrator must have acted with “malice aforethought”

As a general rule, for a murder to be successfully prosecuted as a first degree murder, it must be shown that the killing was done with “premeditation and deliberation.” As a practical matter, that requires some time to think about the crime and its consequences. Often, the nature of the homicide suggests both premeditation and deliberation. For example, arsenic poison over a period of time suggests a well-thought out plan.

A killing that does not reflect pre-planning or consideration, but nonetheless demonstrates “malice aforethought,” will typically be charged as a second degree murder. Such a killing requires intent. However, if the killing is motivated by “heat of passion” or an “irresistible impulse,” the charge may be reduced to manslaughter.

In New Jersey, as in most states, the concept of “felony murder” applies. Under this legal principle, if you are in the process of committing a felony, and you kill someone, you can be charged with murder, even if the killing was entirely unintentional.

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 866-339-7801. We represent clients throughout Middlesex County, Union County, Mercer County, Monmouth County, Essex County and Somerset County.

Homicide in New Jersey—The Different Offenses

Murder | Manslaughter | Vehicular Homicide

The-Different-Offenses

Under the laws of New Jersey, a homicide is defined as the taking of someone else’s life by a human being. In and of itself, homicide is not necessarily a crime—a police officer may kill someone as a reasonable response to that person’s imminent threat to the safety of another person. A person may also kill someone in self-defense. In many instances, a death caused by carelessness or negligence is not a criminal act.

In this blog, we will look only at those homicides that may constitute a crime. As a general rule, there are three different crimes involving homicide:

  • Murder
  • Manslaughter
  • Vehicular homicide

Murder in New Jersey

Homicide crimes are categorized in New Jersey based on “culpability,” or the degree of “blameworthiness” that can be attributed to the wrongdoer. One of the key ways in which culpability is established is through the determination of the perpetrator’s “state of mind” at the time of the killing. With murder, the homicide crime requiring the highest degree of culpability, the necessary state of mind is “intent.” When prosecuting a murder charge, the state’s attorney must show that the defendant intended to kill the victim, intended to cause serious bodily harm, or acted in a way that demonstrated a “reckless disregard for the value of human life.”

Manslaughter in New Jersey

In general, manslaughter involves a lesser degree of culpability than murder. It may involve intent, as with what is known as “voluntary manslaughter,” but that intent is customarily found to arise out of “the heat of passion” or as the result of an “irresistible impulse.” Though the triggering factor will not exculpate the defendant (serve as a defense to homicide), it is usually sufficient to lessen the nature of the charge.

A person may also be charged with involuntary manslaughter in New Jersey. That’s typically a situation where a person engages in reckless conduct that causes the death of another person.

Vehicular Homicide in New Jersey

In New Jersey, you can be charged with the crime of vehicular homicide if you cause the death of another person while engaged in reckless driving of a motor vehicle or a boat. Certain acts may allow a jury to infer recklessness, such as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, texting while driving or falling asleep at the wheel of a vehicle after staying up for 24 hours or more.

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 866-339-7801. We represent clients throughout Middlesex County, Union County, Mercer County, Monmouth County, Essex County and Somerset County.

Can You Beat a Speeding Ticket?

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It takes just an instant…you’re driving on unfamiliar roads or you’re thinking about something else while behind the wheel. Suddenly, you see flashing lights in your mirror and realize that you’ve been traveling above the speed limit. A speeding ticket can be costly—you can incur substantial fines and there’s a chance that your automobile insurance rates will go up. Maybe you were driving a new car or you simply weren’t aware of the posted speed. Is there any way to challenge or minimize the consequences of a speeding ticket?

It’s important to understand up front that successfully challenging a speeding ticket is extremely difficult and can depend on a variety of circumstance, some of which will be beyond your control and some of which you might be able to impact. Here are some tips for getting the best outcome:

  • Don’t get into a debate or confrontation with the officer—Even though you may think the police officer was wrong, you won’t accomplish much by arguing or challenging what he or she saw. If there are extenuation circumstances—you’re driving a rental car, for instance, and you are unfamiliar with its power or cruise control—carefully and courteously explain that to the officer. You may get off with a warning, or the officer may simply choose not to show up if you challenge the ticket in court.
  • Write a letter—If you don’t feel comfortable talking to the officer at the time of the traffic stop, don’t worry. It can be nerve-wracking to try to remain calm when you’ve been pulled over. When you calm down, write the officer a letter, outlining any unusual or extenuating circumstances that contributed to or caused you to exceed the speed limit.
  • See if the prosecutor will strike a deal—You can talk to the prosecutor before the scheduled date of trial to see if a plea bargain can be negotiated. You may be able to escape any points on your record by pleading to a lesser offense.
  • Gather your evidence—If you do end up in court, you’ll have to convince the judge that your version of the facts is more likely than that of a police officer. To do that, you’ll need compelling evidence. Take pictures of anything that’s relevant—speed limit signs blocked by trees, for example—and be prepared to have eyewitnesses give testimony in court.

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 866-339-7801. We represent clients throughout Middlesex County, Union County, Mercer County, Monmouth County, Essex County and Somerset County.

Tips for Avoiding a DWI/DUI in New Jersey

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Simply being arrested for drinking and driving can be a costly enterprise. If you’re convicted, you can face the loss of your driving privileges, incur substantial fines and go through substance abuse counseling. Here are some tips for minimizing the risk of a DUI arrest.

Don’t Drink and Drive

It’s common sense, but often hard to do. There can be a lot of pressure to have a few beers at a party, especially if everyone else is doing it. But it’s always a risky proposition to have any alcohol and get behind the wheel. You don’t have to be driving erratically to be pulled over. The police only need probable cause to believe that you have violated any law or ordinance. You can get pulled over for a minor traffic violation, feel completely in control of your faculties, but blow a BAC above the legal limit and suddenly be in the nightmare of a drunk driving prosecution.

Don’t Draw Attention to Yourself or Your Car

The police need probable cause to pull you over. As indicated above, that doesn’t require that you weave back and forth on the road. You might have a tail light out or your vehicle registration may have expired. You might fail to come to a complete stop at a traffic light or sign. Once you’ve been stopped, the police can ask if you’ve been drinking, or can required a field sobriety or blood alcohol test. Don’t give them a good reason to stop you in the first place. Maintain your vehicle and make certain everything is current.

Have the Party at Your House

It’s summer and you want to have a few beers…why not invite everyone to your house. You won’t have to worry about drinking and driving. Pay attention to your guests, though. If someone drinks too much at your party and causes an accident, you could be liable.

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 866-339-7801. We represent clients throughout Middlesex County, Union County, Mercer County, Monmouth County, Essex County and Somerset County.

What Is Embezzlement in New Jersey?

Embezzlement-in-New-Jersey

If you are under investigation for or have been charged with the crime of embezzlement in New Jersey, you’ll need sound legal counsel to protect your rights. Unlike many other types of crimes, embezzlement is typically treated as both a criminal offense and a civil wrong. That means that you can be convicted and serve time and that you can be sued for the recovery of funds taken.

What is Embezzlement?

Under the law, embezzlement is the theft or misappropriation of funds placed in your trust or belonging to your employer. Unlike other forms of larceny or theft, embezzlement involves wrongful taking of something the perpetrator had permission to handle in some way. While there are many ways in which embezzlement can take place, most often the crime occurs within the context of employment. It can be as simple as taking money from the cash register when no one is looking, but it can take a number of other forms:

  • Depositing vendor or customer checks into a personal account
  • Creating fake expenses
  • Preparing duplicate checks
  • Taking equipment or items intended for company use and converting them to personal use
  • Doctoring books (especially digitally maintained records) to hide losses, stolen amounts or payments to personal accounts

Embezzlement can also occur outside of the employment relationship. If you have been entrusted with money or property in any organization, and you convert assets of the organization to personal use, that’s embezzlement. Pocketing money from a fundraiser, selling a family member’s property and taking the proceeds, cashing someone else’s Social Security or other government check—those are all examples of embezzlement.

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 866-339-7801. We represent clients throughout Middlesex County, Union County, Mercer County, Monmouth County, Essex County and Somerset County.

Possession of Drug Paraphernalia in New Jersey

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In New Jersey, as in other states, police and prosecutors take drug crimes seriously. The penalties for possession of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS), trafficking, cultivation and conspiracy can be severe. But you don’t even have to be caught with illegal drugs. Like most other jurisdictions, New Jersey has laws that make it a crime to possess certain “drug paraphernalia.” Possession of drug paraphernalia, though not as serious as other drug crimes, can lead to a jail term of six months and $1,000 in fines.

What Constitutes Drug Paraphernalia

New Jersey has a fairly broad definition of the term “drug paraphernalia.” It can include almost anything involved in the use, cultivation, manufacture, testing or storage of controlled dangerous substances. That includes some of the items you’d expect, such as rolling papers, special pipes or bongs and roach clips. It can also include certain household items, such as baggies or jars, or scales. It’s also pretty common, if police find drug residue on a pipe or other device, to have a charge of possession tacked on.

When an Item May Be Used for Other Purposes

If you are found to be in possession of items that are known to be used in connection with illegal drugs, but which also have non-drug-related uses, the court will typically apply a five-part test to determine if the materials are drug paraphernalia:

  • What have you told others about the purpose or use of the item?
  • What other possible uses are there for the item?
  • How would the item be used in connection with a CDS?
  • Is there any drug residue on the item?
  • Is there any other evidence indicating the actual usage of the item?

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 866-339-7801. We represent clients throughout Middlesex County, Union County, Mercer County, Monmouth County, Essex County and Somerset County.

Firearms Offenses in New Jersey

Fireearms Offenses

Though the 2nd Amendment has been held to grant certain rights with respect to the ownership of firearms, those rights are not absolute. The state of New Jersey has enacted a number of laws governing the possession and use of guns, including:

  • Possession of a firearm during the commission of certain crimes
  • Possession of a gun for unlawful purposes
  • Possession of an assault weapon
  • Possession of a firearm without a license or permit
  • Threatening a person with a firearm
  • Possession of a gun (or even a fake firearm) at a school

The penalties for violation of firearms laws in New Jersey are severe. As a general rule, any firearms conviction can lead to a minimum sentence of five years in prison and up to 10 years of incarceration. Under the Graves Act, New Jersey’s firearms law, you must serve at least three years before you can be considered eligible for parole.

Defenses to a Firearms Charge

Because of the seriousness with which prosecutors approach gun cases, it can be extremely difficult to defend a firearms charge in New Jersey. The most common defenses include:

  • Challenging the validity of the search—If law enforcement officers allege that the search was consensual, produce evidence that indicates you were coerced or misled into giving your consent.
  • Challenging the validity of the search warrant—A search warrant must generally be based on probable cause. Show that the officer had no reasonable suspicion or belief that you were engaged in illegal activity
  • Challenging the traffic stop—As a general rule, you can’t be pulled over unless the officer has probable cause that you are violating the law
  • Arguing that the possession was legal under New Jersey’s “gun transportation” policy—You don’t need a permit to carry a firearm if you are transporting it between
    • Your residence or business and any place of purchase
    • Your home and your place of business
    • From one residence or place of business to another as part of a move
    • Between your home or business and a firearms repair service

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 866-339-7801. We represent clients throughout Middlesex County, Union County, Mercer County, Monmouth County, Essex County and Somerset County.

White Collar Crime in New Jersey

White Collar Crime

Forgery…embezzlement…fraud…misappropriation of assets…these types of crimes generally fall under the terminology of “white collar crimes,” offenses of opportunity typically committed by people who have been given access to funds or property because of their position in an organization. They are complex cases, often taking years to investigate. Here are some of the important things to know if you are under investigation for or have been charged with committing a white collar crime.

What Must the Prosecution Show to Obtain a Conviction on a White Collar Crime Charge?

As a general rule, white collar crimes require intent. You cannot commit a white collar crime through carelessness or negligence. Accordingly, the prosecution must show that your wrongful actions were intentional, knowledgeable or willful.

You can be charged and convicted of a white collar crime, even if you don’t successfully complete the scheme. You cannot be charged for thinking about embezzlement, fraud or forgery, or even for entertaining the idea with another person. However, if you take any identifiable steps toward putting a plan together or implementing that plan, you can be charged and you may be found guilty. You may not be charged for suggesting to a co-employee that you redirect profits into your personal bank account (although you might get fired for saying so), but if you falsify a company check to yourself, you can be charged, even if you don’t cash the check.

Defenses to White Collar Criminal Charges

There are a number of ways to challenge a white collar crime charge. Because it’s a crime that requires intent, that’s the first and most obvious defense. If you can show that you didn’t know you were doing anything wrong, that may be a defense.

Another effective defense, if it applies, is entrapment. This defense argues that law enforcement officers initiated the idea and used coercion, misrepresentation or undue influence to convince you to participate.

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 866-339-7801. We represent clients throughout Middlesex County, Union County, Mercer County, Monmouth County, Essex County and Somerset County.