African Americans are being disproportionately stopped in Newark, New Jersey stop and frisks, according to police department data released for the first four months of 2014. Although stops are a bit down overall from 2,093 averaged per month for the last six months of 2013 to 1,714 in the report. Despite the decrease in stops, blacks still accounted for 73 percent of all stops, despite being only 52 percent of the city’s residents. Also alarming was the number of stops that didn’t produce charges. Only 22 percent of those who were stopped received a citation or were arrested, down from 25 percent in the prior report. That means that 78 percent of those stopped were doing nothing to justify police action against them. The Newark Police Department has been the subject of a year-long investigation by the United States Justice Department. A report on the investigation is set to be released shortly. The investigation was triggered by 2010 ACLU report that “accused the force of systematically denying civilian complaints, failing to properly respond to lawsuits and running a deeply dysfunctional internal affairs system.” Cornell’s Legal Information Institute defines “stop and frisk” as, “A brief, non-intrusive, police stop of a suspect.” Under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, police may stop someone without a warrant or probable cause if police have a reasonable belief that the suspect is armed and dangerous. See Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 88 S. Ct. 1868, 20 L. Ed. 2d 889 (1968). Police should not use racial profiling when stopping suspects in a stop-and-frisk, yet the data discussed above leaves little confidence that the police are honoring the protections found in our Constitution. You need help fighting back against police and government officials who don’t respect the restraints place on them by the Constitution. An experienced, aggressive criminal defense attorney is your best defense. Call for a consultation.

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Tracy Morgan, the television comedy actor known for his work on “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock,” was badly injured recently on the New Jersey highways. Mr. Morgan was traveling after a performance on his stand-up comedy tour with several other comedians when the luxury limousine bus transporting the entertainers was hit head-on. The other vehicle involved in the collision was a Walmart semi-truck. After impact, four more vehicles added to the chain-reaction crash on the New Jersey Turnpike in Cranbury Township, NJ. All of the passengers in the Mercedes-Benz van suffered life-threatening injuries, with Mr. Morgan originally listed in critical condition but then upgraded to fair condition as of June 17. One of the other comedians traveling with Mr. Morgan, James McNair, died on the scene of the semi-truck accident. The driver of the Walmart truck, Kevin Roper, has been charged criminally with “one count of death by auto and four counts of assault by auto,” according to this news story from the New York Times. The New York Times article quotes Walmart’s chief executive, Bill Simon, as stating, “This is a tragedy and we are profoundly sorry that one of our trucks was involved. We are working quickly to understand what happened and are cooperating fully with law enforcement to aid their investigation.” The investigation into the crash is ongoing. When passenger vehicles collide with massive tractor-trailer or semi-trucks, the personal injuries can be overwhelming. Like for Mr. Morgan, the time away from work can cause irreversible losses. While Mr. Morgan’s reputation as a comedian will probably not suffer as badly as the extent of his physical injuries, his career depends on the ability to continue performing on stage. Some New Jersey residents can’t count on their reputations alone to carry their careers forward. After suffering a semi-truck and car crash, you would likely require time to heal away from work, which could mean lost wages. Medical bills and ongoing therapy demand payments – but who should pay? If the facts in the Tracy Morgan crash reveal that Walmart could be held vicariously liable for the crash, then Walmart would be responsible for paying for those medical bills, lost time from work, and even loss of enjoyment of life. Even if Walmart had not issued a public statement, the company would still be responsible for personal injuries resulting from an employee’s actions. If you have questions about personal injury, contact the Law Offices of Anthony J. Vecchio, LLC for more information.

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If you have been arrested for a felony in New Jersey, it does not automatically mean you will be indicted and tried in court. First, the prosecutor must have sufficient evidence to make moving forward in your case worthwhile. Second, because courts in New Jersey are crowded, a prosecutor may seek to resolve a case as quickly and easily as possible, which means avoiding a trial. If you have been notified of a pre-indictment conference, and you have not yet retained an experienced criminal defense attorney, you should do so right away. This is likely to be your best chance to avoid an indictment and court trial. When Does a Pre-Indictment Conference Occur? Depending on where you have been arrested, you may be notified of a pre-indictment conference in: Early Disposition Court (EDC) Pre-Disposition Court (PDC) Pre-Indictment Program (PIP Court). The pre-indictment or pre-disposition conference is designed to try to resolve felony or indictable criminal matters before they are presented to the Grand Jury. In some counties, prosecutors pre-screen potential Superior Court filings before a complaint is signed. Because the prosecutor will make his or her best plea offer at this stage in a case, the pre-indictment court conference can be very advantageous for a defendant. However, the pre-indictment conference is not for the inexperienced defense attorney. There is very limited time at a pre-indictment conference to review discovery and negotiate with the prosecutor. What Happens in a New Jersey Pre-indictment Conference? Typically, before a pre-indictment conference, the prosecutor’s Case Screening Unit reviews police reports and interviews victims and witnesses to determine whether the prosecutor’s office should pursue the original charges against a defendant. If the prosecutor’s office believes there is insufficient evidence, a charge will likely be downgraded to a disorderly persons offense and either dismissed or remanded (or returned) to the municipal court for a hearing. However, if there is sufficient evidence to prosecute, the prosecutor’s office must weigh the seriousness of the crime, the likelihood of conviction and the cost of going to court. These factors will all go into the initial plea bargain that will be offered at the pre-indictment conference. At the conference, the representative from the prosecutor’s office will state the plea offer and provide the defendant with limited discovery. Then, the defendant must make a decision of whether to accept the offer and enter a plea. How Does ‘Limited Discovery’ Impact Pre-Indictment Conference Decisions? “Discovery” is sharing evidence that the prosecution has gathered in the case. Full discovery, which is required before trial, includes evidence that would hurt or help a defendant’s case. However, “limited discovery,” particularly accompanying a plea offer the prosecutor wants you to take, will include only damaging evidence. A defendant who has engaged a defense attorney soon enough prior to a pre-indictment conference may benefit from the attorney’s investigation of the case and understand the evidence better than what is depicted in limited discovery. This makes it easier to weigh the plea offer. Ultimately, the defendant, through his or her attorney, must choose one of three options in a pre-indictment conference: Accept the plea offer, which means agreeing to plead guilty to the crime and accept the penalty as put forth by the prosecutor’s office. Reject the plea offer and allow the prosecutor to proceed to the grand jury for an indictment. Negotiate for a better plea arrangement and ultimately accept it. In some cases, a defendant may apply for a pre-trial intervention program. PTI, as it is often called, serves as a diversionary program. It allows certain defendants to avoid formal prosecution by entering into a term of court-supervised community living, often with counseling or other support. A defendant must be recommended for PTI by probation, and the prosecutor’s office must approve PTI before it goes before a judge, who must in turn approve it. PTI is usually available for first time non-violent offenders. Probationers, parolees and defendants charged with violent offenses, racketeering or organized crime generally do not qualify. Should You Accept the Plea Offer in a Pre-Indictment Conference? Assuming you do not qualify for PTI, you have to make a decision about the prosecutor’s plea offer. The rule of thumb is that, as stated above, the offer at the pre-indictment conference may be the best one you receive. Each case is different, and each defendant’s situation is different. But you must consider that, because of limited discovery, you will not get to see all of the prosecutor’s evidence. This is when having experienced criminal defense attorney at your side becomes extremely valuable. If your attorney has already investigated the case, he has a better idea of what is in the prosecutor’s hand. For several reasons, a prosecutor’s case may actually falter. Those reasons include: You were improperly arrested You were subjected to an unlawful search and seizure You were not properly advised of your Miranda rights The prosecution’s witnesses are unreliable or unavailable The prosecution’s evidence is open to challenge The evidence simply weighs in your favor. Even without the benefit of time to conduct an investigation, an experienced criminal defense attorney recognizes the difficulty of winning cases with charges like yours, what sentence a conviction would likely bring, and whether the plea offer is a fair one given the circumstances of your case. In some cases, entering into a plea agreement can actually cause long-term harm by limiting your options for appealing a conviction or your ability to petition for expungement of your records at a later date. (It should be noted that defendants who plead guilty after plea negotiations do not surrender their right to appeal their convictions, but any guilty plea makes an appeal more difficult.) Let an Experienced Lawyer for NJ Pre-Indictment Conferences Protect Your Rights The Law Offices of Anthony J. Vecchio, LLC, can assist if you face a potential indictment in the state of New Jersey. We move immediately upon being retained and demand that the prosecution turn over all available evidence in your case. Once we have that evidence, Anthony will review it thoroughly and carefully with you to analyze all witness statements, reports, video, digital evidence...

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What happens to a criminal defendant when the prosecution introduces evidence that may bias the defendant’s case? If you or a loved one faces a criminal case, you should understand the danger of introducing evidence that could negatively bias the court against fully hearing the facts of the case. Recently, a New Jersey criminal defendant, Vonte Skinner, was on trial for attempted murder and discovered how prejudicial evidence held the key to his freedom or conviction. To show he had a violent mindset, the prosecution used his own words against him. Those words had been intended as lyrics to rap songs, not as a confession to the alleged crime. His case has reached the state’s Supreme Court to decide whether the lyrics should have been admitted at all. This type of evidence requires the judge to decide the probative value of the evidence, just as it did in Vonte Skinner’s case. The judge must decide the ultimate question: what purpose does the evidence serve? Proof of the defendant’s general bad character serves the purpose of showing that the defendant is the type of person who would commit the crime. This type of evidence can unfairly and improperly suggest that since the defendant was of bad character he therefore likely committed the crime. The same applies of attempts to show the good character of the defendant—that he or she is the kind of person who would not break this law. Jurors are asked to weigh the evidence objectively by not allowing their strong emotions to cloud the facts. This character evidence does not prove innocence or guilt about the facts of the case, but attempts to provide context for deliberations. Prejudicial evidence can provide information about the defendant—for example, routine sayings or habits—but, if it could potentially confuse the jury’s objective judgment, then the judge must decide whether the evidence stays or goes. This type of situation is very common. Working with an experienced and assertive New Jersey criminal defense attorney can make a big difference during trial.

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As a New Jersey criminal defense lawyer, I’ve helped many clients across the state fight drug-related charges. Even with this experience, however, very rarely do I ever come across a drug-related case as large—and sophisticated—as the one that shocked New Jersey earlier this year. In January, state and local authorities arrested 10 people in a alleged Central New Jersey crime ring. During the arrest, they busted up an alleged drug distribution network, seizing $130,000 worth of drugs and several illegal weapons. According to a recent report from NJ.com, the drug ring allegedly spanned nearly two decades. What’s even more upsetting is the involvement of local government officials in New Brunswick, New Jersey—a city housing inspector and a township public works employee. The inspector was actually found possessing drugs in his government car. According to authorities, a third man charged was employed by the Middlesex County Sheriff’s Department as a dispatcher. Investigators carefully focused on the drug ring for nearly 10 months, finding that the ring distributed cocaine and marijuana around Central New Jersey for nearly 20 years. In total, detectives recovered more than 1.5 kilos of cocaine, two pounds of marijuana, 12 ounces of MDMA, 167 prescription legend drugs, and steroids. 36 weapons were also recovered, 22 of them illegal. New Jersey State Police, the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice, the New Brunswick Police Department, the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, the Plainfield Police Department, and the FBI all had a role in the investigation. The case will be prosecuted by the Division of Criminal Justice under the Office of the Attorney General, according to the NJ.com report. If you have questions about this, or have been charged with a drug-related crime in New Jersey, be sure to contact an experienced drug charge defense attorney right away.

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How Long Do I Have To File A Personal Injury Claim In New Jersey? With over 130 miles of Atlantic coastline and a rich and impressive history, New Jersey is a wonderful place to live. That’s why more than 9 million people call the Garden State home. But with so many people living in such a densely populated area, accidents are bound to happen. Luckily, New Jersey has a well-established legal system that allows anyone to bring a personal injury claim following an accident caused by someone else’s negligence. However, the right to commence a claim for compensation following an accident doesn’t last forever. Read on to find out how long you have to file a personal injury claim in New Jersey, as well as important exceptions that you need to know about. Example Of Personal Injury Claims That Can Occur In NJ Personal injury is an overarching term that includes a wide number of accidents and injuries. Adults and children alike can suffer personal injuries and become entitled to bring a personal injury claim in a New Jersey court. Common forms of personal injury include the following: Car accidents are a leading cause of injury for adults and children alike. Small children are particularly at risk of injury in a car accident, especially if they are not using an age- and size-appropriate child restraint. Dog bites are a common occurrence in New Jersey and can cause significant emotional trauma, in addition to physical injuries. Workplace accidents remain relatively common even today, despite recent pushes for stricter regulations in the workplace to protect workers. Product liability can cause personal injury to adults and children alike, with people needing to be increasingly vigilant about the products they choose to bring into their home. Sports and recreation incidents can unfortunately occur, putting a dampener on what would otherwise be wholesome and enjoyable pastimes like sports, swimming, and even just enjoying time outside. The Statute Of Limitations For A Personal Injury Claim In New Jersey While everyone has the right to file a personal injury claim following an accident, that right doesn’t last forever. All American jurisdictions impose a statute of limitations on claims for personal injury in New Jersey, which can be thought of like a deadline for commencing a civil claim in court. In New Jersey, the statute of limitations is two years from the date that the injury or incident occurred. This simply means that you must commence your proceedings within two years the incident, not that the entire matter must be resolved within two years. The idea behind imposing a statute of limitations is to preserve the evidence available in the matter, including physical evidence and evidence from witnesses in the form of oral testimony. Claims commenced after the two-year New Jersey statute of limitations physical evidence are very likely to be dismissed, making it vitally important that you act without delay and get advice on the New Jersey personal injury matter as soon as possible after the incident occurs. Exceptions To Statute Of Limitations Rules While the statute of limitations for personal injury in New Jersey is two years, there are some exceptions that can apply. It can be difficult to understand if one or more of these exceptions apply to your circumstances, making it important to contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible to give you specific advice. Exceptions to the two-year statute of limitations in personal injury matters can include: If the injured person was mentally incompetent at the time of the incident, the statute of limitations may be paused to allow additional time for a claim to be filed. If the injured party was a child at the time of the incident, the two-year countdown doesn’t begin until the child’s 18th birthday. However, any associated claims relating to adults, such as lost income or other injuries suffered by a parent, will still be subject to the usual two-year limitation. Birth injuries are a special of personal injury claim and carry their own time-limit. Children born before July 2004 have until their 20th birthday to file a claim, while children born after July 2004 must file a birth injury claim before their 13th birthday. If the injury or damage is not discovered immediately, such as some cases environmental pollution or medical malpractice, the two-year clock won’t begin running until after the injury is discovered. This is known as the discovery rule. If your claim involves a government employee undertaking their normal duties or a government agency, other time limits apply. A Notice of Claim form must be filed within 90 days of the accident. This additional deadline can be extended to up to one year, but only in extraordinary circumstances. Case Study Gina was on her way to work when she was sideswiped by another vehicle. In the moments before the accident, Gina could see that the other driver was using their cell phone. Feeling dazed and confused, Gina asked a bystander to call the authorities, aware that all automotive accidents in New Jersey must be reported to the police by the quickest means available. Gina suffered a head injury from the collision and missed several weeks of work, before returning to work part-time for a number of months. She knew that she was not in the right frame of mind to take the matter further on her own, but also knew that she could be entitled to compensation for her injuries. Gina contacted a personal injury attorney in New Jersey who took full carriage of the matter, doing their best to help Gina get the compensation she deserved while giving her the opportunity to recover and rebuild her life. The attorney filed a written report on the correct paperwork provided by New Jersey’s Department of Transportation within the 10-day window and opened a claim with Gina’s car insurance provider since New Jersey is a no-fault jurisdiction. Next, the attorney took the appropriate steps to file a personal injury claim on Gina’s behalf. With a strict two-year statute of...

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In New Jersey, a recent dog bite injury case resulted in a six-figure settlement for the plaintiff; an arbitrator awarded the victim over $560,000 in damages. The settlement may be one of the largest in the state’s history for a personal injury case involving a dog bite. For the 43-year-old victim, what had started as an average night working as a security guard transformed into a nightmare that left him struggling to survive. The night of the attack, two dogs—a pit bull and a Rottweiler—escaped their chain link enclosure and inflicted bites over the majority of the man’s body. The dog bites were so severe that the man was left, according to the article, in a “coma-like state, intubated in a hospital bed, for 10 days… suffer(ing) muscle damage and permanent scarring.” The news article includes a discussion about New Jersey laws specific to dog bite injury lawsuits. Some of the highlights of the statute include: An employer owes a duty to warn employees of a dangerous dog within the premises, and to make conditions safe for the employee. This rule also applies to independent contractors, as stated in a recent court of Appeals case dealing with a part-time dog-sitter who was bitten. Any landlord whose premises is open to the public—or otherwise legally on the property—will be liable for any dog bites on the premises. This is true regardless of the owner’s knowledge of the dog’s previous reputation as a non-violent animal. The defendant can rebut the strict liability by showing evidence that the plaintiff provoked the dog, or that the plaintiff was actually trespassing on the property. For anyone interested in reading the statute in its entirerty, N.J.S.A. 4:19-16 says: “The owner of any dog which shall bite a person while such person is on or in a public place, or lawfully on or in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, shall be liable for such damages as may be suffered by the person bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of such dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness. For the purpose of this section, a person is lawfully upon the private property of such owner when he is on the property in the performance of any duty imposed upon him by the laws of this state or the laws or postal regulations of the United States, or when he is on such property upon the invitation, express or implied, of the owner thereof.” Dog bite injuries can leave permanent emotional and physical scars. If you believe that you were legally on the premises where the injury took place, you ought to know your legal rights to compensatory and special damages from the dog owner and the location’s landlord.

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The following criminal case was recently decided on appeal pertaining to the State’s failure to produce an expert witness from a GPS manufacturer. The State sought to introduce evidence from the defendant’s GPS despite the absence of expert testimony. Summary by Mark Friedman. State v. Eric Pittman, unpublished opinion, App. Div. Docket No. A-2569-08T4 (November 4, 2009) – Order denying admission of evidence from Global Positioning System (GPS), State’s motion for reconsideration, and State’s motion to reopen affirmed. “Specifically, the State sought to introduce evidence of the location of defendant’s Yukon motor vehicle, on which a GPS unit had been installed pursuant to court order, to show that the Yukon traveled to the vicinity of an apartment in Edison where guns, drugs, and drug paraphernalia were later seized pursuant to a search warrant. No independent surveillance corroborated defendant’s location and travel on the day in question…. [T]he State [argued] that an expert from Orion was not necessary for admission of the GPS evidence, because the device’s technology has been generally accepted as scientifically reliable…. [The trial court concluded] that while it was satisfied the GPS system was an appropriate technology in general, ‘the question came down to this particular system, the Orion system … that was installed by the county prosecutor’s office in the defendant’s vehicle. Whether or not this system was an appropriate method of calculating one’s position in the world.’… Here, the trial judge decided that expert testimony, beyond that of McDonald, who attested only to the acceptance of GPS technology in general, was essential to determining the accuracy and trustworthiness, and therefore admissibility, of the particular GPS device used in this case. We agree…. The State’s belated effort to reopen the N.J.R.E. 104 hearing nine months after commencement of the proceeding and seventeen months after the issue was raised is simply too little, too late. The State declined many requests and opportunities to present the expert proof deemed necessary by the court to close the gaps identified in McDonald’s and Palfy’s testimonies. Moreover, when the State finally relented after the close of evidence and resolution of the issue, it failed to make an offer of proof to assure the court that its expressed concerns would be satisfied by the proposed testimony.” (Joshua D. Altman; Steven D. Altman, on the brief).

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When it comes to challenging your Breathalyzer /Alcotest results in a New Jersey DWI case, it is vital for your attorney to be proactive. This means attacking the admissibility of the breath test results before they are received by the judge into evidence during your trial. One requirement the prosecutor has to meet before he or she may use your breath test readings against you is to prove that the police officer who operated the machine was a “qualified operator.” In order to be qualified to operate a breath test machine, Police officers in New Jersey must be certified by the New Jersey Attorney General. The certificate is basically a license to conduct breath tests. Like any other license, it may be terminated, suspended, or expired. This last feature – expiration – can sometimes be used to successfully “suppress” the breath test results (get them thrown out). A breathalyzer/alcotests operator’s certificate is good only for the year it was issued, plus 2 more years. So if an officer is certified on April 1, 2009, his or her certificate will expire on December 31, 2011. Before the expiration date, the officer must re-certify, that is, go back for a one-day training session. This training session must include: Statutes and case law; Instruction and training; Lab practice with alcohol exposed air samples; A written exam; and, A competency exam. A recertification is, like the initial certification, valid for the remainder of the year it is issued plus 2 more years. Proof that the officer completed these requirements can be shown by the officers certification card and the officer’s testimony. If your defense attorney can prove that the officer was not a qualified operator, you stand a good chance of beating the breath test and possibly the entire NJ DWI-DUI case.

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