Category Archives: Uncategorized

Improper Turn Law New Jersey

Under New Jersey law, the following may constitute a “turn:”
A turn at an intersection
An entry into a driveway or private roadway
A move to the right or left upon a roadway
A deviation from a direct course
A lane change

As a basic regulation for how and in what direction a vehicle must turn, the Motor Vehicle Code enforces that all vehicles turning right must remain close to the right-hand side of the roadway both while approaching a turn and while taking the turning.  The same must also apply for vehicles turning left.

A turn signal must be activated at a continuous rate during, at minimum, the last 100-feet before turning.  There are three key elements of a turn signal offense: a turn, failure to give an appropriate signal, and the presence of other traffic that may be affected by the turn.

The Supreme Court ruled in State v. Williamson (1994), that a signal is only necessary when there is a likely risk of affecting nearby traffic.  This means that a signal is mandatory only if your anticipated movement has the potential, or is “in some degree likely,” to affect another vehicle.  The Williamson case also ruled that a signal should not be used merely as a means of accident avoidance, as motorists driving even within the remote vicinity may be affected by the signaling driver’s movements.  When ruling on the legality of a police vehicle halting a non-signaling vehicle, the court decided that the state need not demonstrate that any other traffic in the area was affected, indicating that the police vehicle itself can qualify as such “affected” traffic.

Failing to signal, either before a turn or before a stop sudden decrease in speed in the state of New Jersey will result in a possible penalty of two motor vehicle points against your driver’s license.

A U-Turn involves a driver turning a vehicle around as a means to proceed in the opposite direction.  U-turns are prohibited in the following situations:
When driving upon a curve
When approaching the nearest crest of a grade
Upon any place on a highway where the view from the vehicle is obstructed within a distance of 500 feet in either direction
Upon a highway that is conspicuously marked with signs stating “no U-turn”**

In order to be punishable by law, an illegally taken U-Turn is not required to be a “true,” 180-degree turn.  In State v. Smith, for instance, the defendant was found guilty of taking an illegal U-Turn after turning left into a driveway on the opposite side of the road before backing out and continuing in the opposite direction.  An improper U-Turn may result in a penalty of up to three points against your driver’s license.

Conversely, Improper Backing or Turning, wherein a vehicle backs or turns onto a street, in a maneuver that interferes with other vehicles on the road, results in a penalty of up to two points against your driver’s license.

Using a Confidential Informant to Arrest a Suspect

Castro-4

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.

State Legislature Pushing Ignition Interlock instead of License Suspension for DWI

The New Jersey House and Senate have supported a bill that would make the ignition interlock system mandatory for all DWI offenses. This would be instead of the currently mandatory license suspension. However, if the defendant does not own a vehicle, then his license would be suspended. You would not be able to drive any car that doesn’t have the interlock installed on it.

This HAS NOT been signed and is not law, but it soon may be. I assume that  MADD has convinced law makers that people will drive even if their license is suspended for DWI. The penalties for driving while suspended for DWI include mandatory jail time of up to ninety days and an additional year to two year loss of license. If an accident is involved or if there is a prior conviction for DWI on your record, you could be looking at an indictable conviction and many months in the county jail or state prison time. Apparently, the legislature feels that these penalties are not sufficient or alternatively and more likely, the law makers feel that this is a safer alternative to the current system since people can not operate the car unless they blow into the machine and no alcohol is detected. So, if people are going to drive anyway, we mind as well make it safer. I have not looked at the research numbers, so I’m not sure if there is data to support the conclusion that people drive regardless.

Currently, the ignition interlock is only mandatory for a first offense DWI if the BAC is .15 or above or the defendant is convicted of refusal to provide a breath sample. It is mandatory for second and third offenses no matter the BAC level. With the new law, the ignition interlock would be mandatory for the period of suspension and up to ten years after reinstatement, depending on the number of previous convictions an individual has on his record.  Right now, the typical period of ignition interlock for a first offense is the period of suspension and up to one year after. For a second offense, the period of suspension and for up to three years following. I don’t think there will be any changes to the time frames.

Even if the new law passes, the additional penalties will remain the same. The high fines, ridiculously high surcharges and insurance surcharges, possible incarceration, loss of employment (imagine telling your boss that you have to install the interlock on all the work trucks or company cars that you might drive). It also will appear on your driver abstract forever.

Regardless, this new law would likely give the DWI defendant an opportunity to keep driving. For most, this is the paramount consideration.

 

 

 

DWI Charge Dismissed and Client Pleads to Reckless Driving

I appeared in a south Jersey municipal court this afternoon for a DWI trial date. I arrived about half hour early to discuss the matter with the prosecutor and judge.

Prior to this date a had successfully argued to have the Alcotest readings suppressed (couldn’t be used as evidence against my client). This put us in a much better position because the readings were fairly high (.15 BAC). At that BAC level my client was exposed to the higher level of penalties for a first offense. This included the ignition interlock and up to a year loss of license.

There were also some aggravating factor (motor vehicle accident with another car).

Given the facts of the case, the state was willing to proceed with the DWI charge as an observation case. This includes everything else other than the Alcotest readings, including performance on the field sobriety tests,  the manner of driving,  speaking,  appearance,  admissions of drinking,  smell of alcohol etc.

This is a perfectly valid way for the state to prove its case and in fact most DWI trials boil down to the observations if the readings are suppressed. The penalties for a conviction for an observation offense are not as harsh. Monetarily they are the same but the max on the license suspension is three months if it is a first offense. Most times I go to trial if the readings are kicked pre-trial, but it really depends on the case.

Interestingly enough, my client was licensed in another state. This fact played into my strategy. Just about every state is a party to the interstate driver compact. This means that most states will take action against your license even if you get the ticket or charge in another state. The question is what kind of action?

For example if you live in state A, state B can only suspend your privilege to drive in state B. State A can take separate action against you and may suspend your license in state A, but it depends. Also in most states,  New Jersey excluded, the DMV will allow for a provisional license no matter the nature of suspension. However, this may not be the case for Dwi convictions.

Why does this matter? Here is why. I did my research and spoke to my client. First, a DWI conviction in News Jersey costs upwards of five grand in fines and surcharges. Second,  if he was convicted of DWI in this state or any other he would lose his job. Third, he doesn’t ever drive in New Jersey. It was a fluke. Third, the only way New Jersey suspension could hurt him in his state would be if it was because of a Dwi conviction. A suspension for a conviction for just about any other motor vehicle infraction would likely not result in a suspension in his state.

Putting this all into the calculator this is what you get. How long Nj suspended his license was unimportant. What mattered was the nature of the conviction. Meaning if there was a way to get rid of the Dwi without having to take a chance at trial then it was a no brainer.
The prosecutor didn’t know any of the background. My offer to the state was dismiss the Dwi, the defendant pleads guilty to reckless driving.

This offer was not appreciated at first,  but as the day went on and the state had the time to review my arguments and the strength of its case, the prosecutor came around with one minor modification. A short loss of driving privileges in Nj. Who cares? No trial where the outcome would be uncertain. No loss of job. No loss of driving privileges in the places he had to drive. No 5k in penalties. He won’t even get the points in his home state. And I got the DWI dismissed pre-trial. Not an easy thing to do.

Directed Verdict of Not Guilty in Middlesex County Municipal Court

I had an ongoing case in a Middlesex County Municipal Court that involved co defendants, both of whom were charged with drug possession. In addition, my client was arrested for obstruction of justice when she refused to answer the door for police officers who claimed they had a valid warrant for her arrest.

Something interesting appeared in the police report regarding the warrant, namely, that the warrant was a mistake, and that they only thought she had a warrant. There is case law directly on point as it relates to this issue. As to the obstruction charge, my pretrial arguments regarding the suppression issue were persuasive enough that the charge went away pretty early in the case.

That left the drug charges, a motion was also filed on these charges. However, it was clear to me that the element of possession for my client  was lacking for the state. So much so that I was able to argue that the police themselves had admitted as much in the police report. Following discussions. This charge was also directed verdict of not guilty.

Great result for my client, helping her avoid a criminal record.