Using a Confidential Informant to Arrest a Suspect

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I’m not the Guy you Want.

Many of the drug cases that I handle involve the Police using a confidential informant (or CI) as part of the investigation. A confidential informant is typically an individual who has been arrested for a separate crime and in exchange for favorable treatment, agrees to give information, participate in the investigation, and in many instances, be the key player in the crime that leads to your arrest.

A typical fact pattern is as follows:

Johnny gets caught with an ounce of pot. The police say to him “We will help you out if you help us out. Who do you know that sells drugs.” Johnny tells them and then agrees to go and buy drugs from that person. He does so on several occasions. This is called a controlled buy. After several controlled buys, the police make an application for a warrant to search the suspect’s home. They get that warrant based on the information that the CI provides and the successful controlled buys.

The home is searched and drugs are found. The suspect is charged with drug distribution.

The identity of the confidential informant is rarely revealed. In fact, the law is very protective of the identity of a CI and only requires that this identity by exposed under certain circumstances. And even then, the law states that the CI’s testimony if ordered can only be required at trial under most circumstances.

There are exceptions, as stated, to the general rule that the identity remains secret. For example, in my example above, if we change the facts slightly to say that the suspect was arrested because we arranged for the CI to buy a gun from him, and we arrested him on the spot. This means that the CI was directly involved in the crime that led to the arrest. This is different than being involved in the development of probable cause for arrest.

Another exception is when the identity of the CI is revealed by the state. This doesn’t mean that you know who he is. This means that the State screwed up an inadvertently revealed it. For example, if the name appeared in a police report. Just because you may know who it is, does not mean that the State disclosed it.

There are other exceptions as well. I have filed many motions to disclose the identity of a CI. Not all have been successful, but in the cases where it has been, it frequently results in a dismissal or significant downgrade. The State does not like to reveal them, especially if they are good at what they do.

If you have been arrested and suspect that a CI was used by the Police during the investigation, it would benefit you you get as much information as you can about it. If the chips fall the right way, it could result in the dismissal of your case or other very good outcomes.

 

Will my Charge Appear on My Criminal Record?

This is always one of the first questions people have and rightfully so. Having a conviction appear on your criminal history can create huge issues for employment, travel, and immigration (just to name a few).

The answer will depend on the charge and whether or not you are convicted. Let’s walk through it.

In New Jersey, there are motor vehicle offenses under Title 39, Disorderly Persons Offenses under Title 2C and indicatable offenses under Title 2C. There are also Municipal Ordinance Offenses that are enacted by each municipality/city. Ordinance violations are not under the State code (not Title 39 or Title 2C).

Title 39 offenses appear on your driving record/abstract. Not on your criminal record. This includes DWI and Possession of CDS in a Motor Vehicle. You can’t remove items from your driving record. They stay forever. This is different than criminal.

Title 2C convictions appear on your criminal record or CCH. A charge or being charged is not the same as being convicted. Only convictions appear on a CCH (some refer to it as a RAP sheet). If you are not convicted, meaning you were not found guilty or pleaded guilty, then you don’t have a record, but there are some exceptions.

Pre-trial intervention and Conditional Discharge programs do not result in conviction. Nonetheless, you will have a record that your completed the program. You can remove this record through a process called expungement six months after you complete the program.

Additionally, anytime you are arrested or charged under Title 2C, there is a record of that charge, even if it is subsequently dismissed. However, you can expunge a record of the arrest/charge immediately upon dismissal.

Municipal Ordinances, although low level violations, may still appear on your record. Maybe you were issued one of these when you and your friends rented that shore house and the party got a little out of hand. You can expunge these too.

There is a waiting period for expungement. You must wait five year to expunge a disorderly persons offense, 5-10 years for an indictable, and 2 years for an ordinance. The clock does not start to run until the fines are paid, the probation is completed or the jail time has been served (whichever date is latest)

It is clear that the information highway opens our closets up like never before. In this day and age you should assume that any trouble you have or had will follow you and be seen by the outside world.

If you find yourself in a situation, big or small, it is smart to figure out how it may affect you in the future by seeking legal counsel.

Arrested in Belmar New Jersey, You may want to Consider Hiring a Lawyer

Arrested

If you have been arrested in Belmar, there is a good chance you have been charged with one of the following:

This list is not exhaustive, but during the many years that I have been representing people charged with offenses in Belmar and other shore towns, it is clear that these are the most common.

Most of my clients I have represented in this capacity are charged with a crime or DWI for the first time and are just realizing that the one night could impact them for the rest of their lives.

It is important to realize that a conviction for any of the above-listed offenses will result in a criminal record that will remain there for at least five years.

If you are a teacher, your employer will be notified that your name has been entered into the State database and you will receive a notice. You could potentially lose your job.

If you are charged with DWI you could lose your license for up to a year for a first offense, two years for a second, and ten years for a third. A third offense carries a mandatory 6 month jail sentence.

The point is this…. you have to give yourself a chance to succeed and hiring a lawyer that not only has experience, but experience in that court is important. I have extensive experience appearing in Monmouth and Ocean County municipal courts and a high success rate.

A free consultation will quickly and comfortably give you the information you need to make good decisions going forward.

If you are facing an offense of any kind in Belmar, don’t compound the situation. Take a deep breath and a little time to educate yourself on your case and make a good decision when it comes time to hire representation.

Governor Conditionally Vetoes Bill Changing DWI Sentencing

The Governor returned a bill to the Senate which would have drastically changed DWI sentencing in New Jersey if passed. The Bill called for, inter alia, the imposition of an ignition interlock system in lieu of license suspension for first conviction for DWI.

The Bill contained provisions that called for a ten-day suspension to show compliance with the installation of the interlock. Once the device was installed, the license would be reinstated. The sentencing judge would then have discretion (to some extent) to impose the interlock for a longer or shorter period of time depending on the circumstances.

The Bill was returned to the Senate with a suggestion from the Governor….How about we impose both a license suspension and an ignition interlock?

The Governor cited statistics that indicate that New Jersey is amongst the nations best when it comes to DWI related fatalities and enforcement, but still in need of improvement.

The current law mandates license suspension, but the ignition interlock is only required for first offense with a B.A.C. of .15 and above, or for a second and third offense.

It is clear to me that the new law would have been better for those facing DWI charges. The prospect of losing your license in New Jersey is pretty daunting. A change in the law that would allow you to  keep it certainly seems like a good thing for those facing the problem.

But for now, things remain the same. If you have any questions regarding this decision or DWI charges in general, I can be reached 24 hours.

 

When Driving with a Suspended License Becomes a Crime

There are many circumstances that will lead to an individual being charged with an indictable driving while suspended offense. One of the frequent is being charged with driving while suspended on more than one occasion when your license is suspended for DWI. You may also face this charge when you are suspended for your second or subsequent DWI offense and receive a ticket for driving during a period of revocation or suspension.

However, you may not know that you are facing this consequence until you arrive in the municipal court to answer the charge. It is usually at that time that you are told that your case is being transferred to the county for review.  The p0lice officer will not hand you a criminal complaint, just a ticket.

Although defendants are supposed to be made aware of these consequences during the sentencing in connection with the DWI offense, many times courts will forget to do so. Other times people just forget.

Regardless, if your case is transferred and remains in Superior Court, a conviction will mean a mandatory 180 day jail sentence. That time must be served day for day.

I represent people facing this problem, and in many instances I am able to avoid this penalty. In some cases, I was able to retrieve court transcripts from prior DWI convictions and show that the defendant was not properly warned of this penalty. In other cases, I was able to convince the county prosecutor to remand the case to  the municipal court and treat it as a traffic offense.

Interestingly enough, the Appellate Div. just held that a lawyer is not under any  obligation to tell the municipal court about this potential issue. Meaning, if asked, the defendant must tell, but if not, then no.  This can be helpful if the prosecutor or judge does not address the issue, but it  is far from a guarantee.

Even for a first offense DWI and first offense driving while suspended you face a mandatory ten days in the county jail and an additional 2 year loss of license.

Given the amount of county jail time one faces, it really is in your best interest to contact a lawyer if you have a question about this.

Cranfords are the First Manufactured Marijuana Cigarettes

In a funny sort of coincidence, the company producing the first manufactured marihuana cigarettes has named the product Cranfords. The machine rolled cannabis cigarettes come in tins of 10 filtered joints and each tin contains a quarter ounce of weed.

Cranfords sell for between $50 and $60 per tin. Obviously, Cranfords are only available in states that have legalized marijuana use and sale. In New Jersey, marijuana is still illegal and penalized under NJSA 2C:35-10. But there has been waves of proposed legislation that is gaining support.

The product has no relationship to the township of Cranford, where my law practice is located in Union County New Jersey. The product is named after Bud Cranford, the father of a Colorado cannabis grower.

The company has seen good sales since its initial product launch. The packaging is attractive in my opinion and has that keepsake quality about it. I wouldn’t mind having an empty tin just for prosperity. In fact the company sells the empty tins on its website. Maybe I’ll indulge myself (to an empty tin that is).

DWI Related Offenses and Factors for Sentencing

Driving While Intoxicated – First Offense

Under the law, it is illegal for a person to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage, or some type of narcotic, habit producing drug, or operate a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or greater. It is also illegal to allow someone else to operate your vehicle in the above state. If one is charged with DWI as a first offender, there are different tiers of sentencing, depending on the percentage of your blood alcohol concentration.

Tier One: You have a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) of less than .10%, or there is no reading because you refused or the State is unable to prove that the machine was in proper working condition. Here you will face a 3 month suspension of your driving privileges, a $250.00 to $400.00 fine as well as other State imposed monetary penalties. Also a 12 to 48 hour sentence in the IDRC (intoxicated driver resource center) will be imposed. In addition, you face the possibility of interlock device installation being required and up to 30 days imprisonment.

Tier Two: If you have a result of over .10 and the State is successful in their prosecution, you are subject to second tier penalties. You’re driving privileges will be suspended from 7 months to 1 year. You will have to spend 12 to 48 hours in IDRC and again will be subject to fines as well as surcharges from DMV and your insurance company. If your reading is higher than a .15, the additional penalty of having to install an interlocking device in your vehicle will apply.

– Second or Third Offense

If this is your second or third offense for DWI in New Jersey, the tier system does not apply. If you are convicted of DWI as a second or third offender, you will lose your privilege to drive in New Jersey as well as face jail time (mandatory for third offense) and fines. There are also collateral consequences that apply to a conviction for a second or third offense DWI.
Miranda Rights

– It is a common thought among those charged with DWI that because they were not read their Miranda Rights, the case should be dismissed. Miranda Rights only apply in something called a custodial interrogation. This means that you are not free to leave. While most people feel that they cannot just get in their car and drive away, the courts have found that most of the questions the police ask of a person occur before the person is technically in custody. Unfortunately what this means, is that the questions that occur at roadside are not considered custodial and therefore the police are under no obligation to provide you with your Miranda Rights.
Aggravating Factors at Sentencing for DWI

– There are certain factors that can enhance a sentence for DWI. A refusal to submit to the breath test; driving in a school zone; having an extremely high blood alcohol content; causing injury to someone; driving extremely recklessly; having prior DWI’s, driving on the revoked list due to a prior DWI; or even having a child in the car are just some to name a few. If any of the above circumstances were present, the prosecutor is entitled to ask for increased fines; license loss; and jail time.

Underage DWI

– If you are under 21 and drive with any amount of alcohol in your system (.01) you can be charged with an underage DWI. The penalties for a baby DWI as they call it are a 30 to 90 days license loss, participation in IDRC and 15 to 30 days of community service. If your blood alcohol content reaches the level of .08 and above you become subject to the penalties of an adult DWI.

Vehicle Checkpoints

– In a situation where you drove through a vehicle checkpoint, there are strict guidelines that must be followed. For example, the checkpoint must be announced to the public in advance and not allowed to be set up by the field officers. In addition, cars must be stopped in a random and neutral pattern as well as done in a safe and efficient manner.

Plea Bargaining

– Unfortunately, there is no plea bargaining DWI cases in the State of New Jersey. It is acceptable for the prosecutor to make certain sentencing recommendations to the Judge, but he can’t recommend dismissal or lowering the time of license suspension unless the defense lawyer has a good legal argument to put on the record. Absent that, in a case where it is a first offense and the possible license loss is anywhere from 7 to 12 months, the prosecutor may recommend to the Judge that he only sentence you to the minimum of 7 months. Also, it is possible for the prosecutor to move to dismiss some of the other traffic infractions you might have received in connection with the DWI. But to reiterate, a downgrade or dismissal only occurs when your lawyer makes a convincing legal argument.