Experience Getting Evidence Thrown Out in Court      I have been defending clients accused of committing criminal offenses for over a decade. Many of these involved drug possession and gun charges. These can be characterized as possessory offenses. They almost always occur following some kind of search. This could be the police searching your car, home, or person.  The issue of “possession” is a subject of its own. But before the state can prove the illegal item was yours, they have to get it into evidence. You can challenge whether police searched you illegally      That is where an experienced defense attorney usually does much of the heavy lifting in such a case. Indeed, the entire case usually rises or falls on this very issue. There are special rules involved in make such challenges. Those rules are governed by court rule, statute, and case law.  Motions to Suppress Evidence       What can you do if police searched you illegally? The first steps in a case like this are to usually handle any procedural preliminary issues. This includes entering not-guilty pleas and filing any appropriate notices. Contact will also be made with the prosecuting attorney’s office. This is done in order to obtain all case discovery and open a dialogue about the case.           You can challenge the evidence in a case involving a police search of your home, car, or person. This is done by first filing a motion to suppress evidence. The motion is a legal document that your attorney prepares. Its purpose is to put the state on notice as to what exactly you are challenging. It is critical to file such a motion well before any trial. It is too late to arguing these issues at trial. You would be surprised to see how often this unfortunately happens though.  After the Motion is Filed      Along with the motion, a proposed court order should usually be submitted. If the case is in Superior Court, a certification is also required pursuant to rule. Depending on the legal or factual issues, a brief may also be filed. A brief is basically your legal argument laid out on paper.       After the state responds, a hearing date will be set. The hearing not conducted in front of jury. Rather, a judge presides over the hearing as the finder of fact and law. At the hearing, the judge will hear any proposed testimony. The judge can also view exhibits. The defense attorney and prosecutor each present their witnesses and cross-examine the other’s.  Legal Standards      The rules of evidence are relaxed during a suppression hearing. This means typical objections such as hearsay will usually be overruled. This comes up a lot when a police officer is asked to testify about what someone else told them. For example, in a case where the officer was dispatched to a house, what was told to the officer by the dispatcher. Or, what was told to the dispatcher from an eyewitness or victim.       The burden of proof in a suppression hearing depends on whether a warrant exists. Defendants have the burden of proof if the search was conducted without a warrant. The burden is on the state if the search was conducted without a warrant. In Superior Court, the defense’s adversary will be the Assistant Prosecutor handling the case. In Municipal Court, the defendant’s adversary will be the Municipal Prosecutor. Who Opposes the Motion?       Assistant Prosecutors work full-time for the County Prosecutor. The County Prosecutor is appointed directly by the Governor. Municipal Court Prosecutors work for the municipality. They are appointed directly by the town committee or mayor. This depends on how the town is politically organized and structured.       It should be noted that the County Prosecutor’s Office must be noticed on all suppression motions filed in the state. This is required even if the case is being heard in Municipal Court.  The Warrant Requirement And Probable Cause       The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article I, Paragraph 7 of the New Jersey Constitution govern this issue. The both say: “[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.” Generally, a search must therefore be conducted with either a warrant or with probable cause. In some cases, additional requirements are required before police can conduct a search.  Probable cause exists when an officer has a well-founded suspicion of guilt. This may constitute something less than proof needed to convict and something more than a vague suspicion. State v. McKenna, 228 N.J. Super. 468, 474 (App. Div. 1998)(citing State v. Davis, 50 N.J.16, 23 (1967), cert.denied. 389 U.S.1054 (1968). Probable cause is not a rigid concept. It is a “flexible, nontechnical concept.” State v. Novembrino, 105 N.J.95, 120 (1987)(citation omitted). What Makes a Search Illegal?      This depends on a variety of factors beyond the scope of this article. Different standards apply to different types of searches. For example, searches of cars are subject to different rules than home searches. Searches of individual’s persons also depend on a variety of factors. Was the person already under arrest? Were they a passenger in a car? Were they simply walking down the street while “looking suspicious?” The law regarding each type of these situations is different and needs to be thoroughly understood by a defense attorney.       Courts determines the existence of probable cause by applying a common-sense, practical standard. Courts look to the facts of the case. The chief inquiry is whether a reasonable person would believe that an offense was being committed. What Happens After the Motion Hearing?       If the judge agrees with the state, the case proceeds like before. The state may now use the evidence that was taken after the search. If the judge agrees with the defense that police searched you illegally, that can be a game changer. In some many cases, without that evidence the state will not be able to prove the case. Proof in a criminal case must be beyond a reasonable doubt.       The state has two choices if they cannot proceed against you without the evidence....

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Former Prosecutor on Your Side. NJ Police can search your home without a warrant under very limited circumstances. As a defense attorney in New Jersey I have defended clients against warrantless police searches of their homes. In some cases police entered these client’s homes without consent or a warrant. It is often assumed that such a action is simply illegal. The result should be that all evidence obtained after that search should be thrown out. The answer to this question is not so simple.       The law on this issue is somewhat complicated. However, there is general presumption against such action. Many of these cases are successfully defended because of that. An experienced attorney may successfully obtain the suppression of evidence in your case under certain circumstances.  Why Do Police Enter and Search Homes Without a Warrant.      Why would an officer enter a person’s home without a warrant? This occurs for a variety of reasons. Police officers in New Jersey are sometimes but in very difficult decisions. Should an officer chase a fleeing murder suspect into a house without a warrant? If the officer does so, there is a chance any evidence seized after the arrest may be thrown out.       This could potentially result in the entire case being dismissed. Or should the officer play it safe, sit back and apply for a warrant? If the officer does not have enough backup to surround the home, the suspect could go free. This could endanger the public.       Conundrums such as this are why the law on this subject is not so straightforward. Typical charges that result from such cases commonly include gun and drug possession. If you were charged with any crime in NJ after police entered your home, call my office for help.  Exigent Circumstances       As a starting principle, the police should have a warrant before they conduct any search. The State bears the burden of proof when a search is conducted without a warrant. The can only meet that burden by showing that warrantless arrest or search falls within an exception to the warrant requirement.           On such exception is what is called exigent circumstances. This basically means that in some emergency type cases, police do not have to obtain a warrant before conducting a search. This is a requirement in a warrantless entry and search of a home. This applies in both federal and state court.  A wide variety of circumstances may give rise to such exigency. A court should look to the totality of the circumstances when determining whether such a search should be upheld.  Federal Case Example      In Johnson v. United States, an informant told police someone was smoking opium in a hotel room.Police responded and investigated. Upon arrival, they smelled “a strong odor of burning opium” coming from the room. They knocked and announced themselves as police.  They then heard some “shuffling or noise.” The defendant opened the door. The police entered without a warrant and arrested the defendant. They searched the room and found suspected heroin. They also found drug paraphernalia.  The Supreme Court declared the police entry and search violated the Fourth Amendment. Id. at 13-15. The Court noted that “[n]o suspect was fleeing or likely to take flight The search was of permanent premises, not of a movable vehicle. No evidence or contraband was threatened with removal or destruction, except perhaps the fumes which we suppose in time would disappear.” Id. at 15. NJ State Law Example      In State v. Holland, the Court stated that the smell of burning marijuana establishes probable cause. However, the court also stated that that smell did not establish exigent circumstances. Therefore it was improper for police to make a warrantless entry and. In that case, the established nothing more than probable cause that a disorderly persons offense is being committed. The warrantless home searches by police in this case resulted in the suppression of all evidence found. Burden is on the Prosecution      A warrantless entry or search of a residence is presumptively unreasonable. They are therefore constitutionally prohibited. This is unless the police can show “exigent circumstances in conjunction with probable cause.” They must also establish the reasonableness of the police conduct. The warrantless search of a person’s homemust be subjected to particularly careful scrutiny. This applies under both NJ and federal constitutional standards. The reason for this is because physical entry of a home has long been considered the most serious of intrusions.       Warrantless searches or arrests in the home must be subjected to particularly careful scrutiny. Only in extraordinary circumstances may a warrantless home arrest or search be justified.  State v. Bolte, 115 N.J. 579 (N.J. 1989). The state bears the burden of proof in such a search. All your attorney has to do is properly file a motion to suppress evidence in order to trigger that burden.  Hot Pursuit      One such form of exigency relates to “hot pursuit.” This is commonly misunderstood area of law. There is a misconception that such a search is always valid. This is inaccurate. Police in hot pursuit regarding a minor offense may not barge into a home if there is only probable cause.  However, that can change if the threat to public safety is substantial. The “hot pursuit” of a defendant who poses a threat to public safety may establish exigency.       A limitation to this exception applies when police have an arrest warrant. When a suspect flees from an arrest warrant, police may pursue them in most cases.  The Community Caretaking Exception to the Warrant Requirement.     There is also an “exception to the exception” of exigency. Police officers have a community-caretaking function. This is in addition to their law enforcement roles. Police can enter a home without a warrant under the emergency-aid exception.  Under the emergency-aid doctrine, The officer must have ‘an objectively reasonable basis to believe that an emergency requires that he provide immediate assistance to protect or preserve life, or to prevent serious injury.’ There must also be a “‘reasonable nexus between the emergency and the area or places to be searched.'”   Conclusion       As can be seen, this is a complex area of law. I have experience successfully fighting warrantless home searches by police. If the police searched your home without...

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how to get a possession charge dismissed

A person charged with possession usually finds themselves in a serious situation—one that can result in jail time, fines, or suspension of their driver’s license. If you’ve been charged with possession of a controlled substance, it’s important to know how you might be able to get those charged dismissed.  Do you need to know how to get a drug possession charge dismissed? The most common ways to beat a drug possession charge in New Jersey involve denial, insufficient evidence, illegal search issues, and statutory defenses. Keep reading to find out more about which defenses might apply to your case, or contact a drug charges defense lawyer at the Law Offices of Anthony J. Vecchio. Defense #1: You Didn’t Commit the Crime This type of defense applies when you’re charged with any crime. If you didn’t commit the crime, you should not be convicted. The prosecution has the burden of proving that you committed the crime, so this defense might come up under various circumstances. The following examples show how to beat a drug possession charge:   The drugs weren’t yours. This defense is relatively simple. If the drugs weren’t yours, you didn’t commit the crime.   The drugs were planted.  This defense is difficult to raise because police testimony is highly trusted. Your attorney may be able to file a motion to release police files. These files may have information that would be useful in arguing that the drugs were planted.   You didn’t have constructive possession.  If the police didn’t find the drugs on your person, the prosecutor must show that you had actual control over the drugs.  Any evidence that the drugs may belong to someone else is helpful to argue against constructive possession.  For example, prosecutors might have a harder time proving constructive possession when multiple people live in the same house, or when police discover drugs in a car with multiple passengers.  Defense #2: Insufficient Evidence  The prosecutor must show beyond a reasonable doubt that you possessed illegal drugs. The prosecution’s evidence can fall short of this requirement. These examples show how to get a possession charge dismissed in a few different ways:   The substance wasn’t an illegal drug.  The prosecution needs to show that the substance they found is actually an illegal drug. For example, a bag of white powder might look like cocaine when, in reality, it’s only flour.  A crime lab analyst needs to verify that the substance is actually an illegal drug to satisfy this requirement.    The evidence has gone missing.  The prosecution will be hard-pressed to show that the substance found is an illegal drug if it is nowhere to be found.  Evidence is often transferred multiple times before it makes its way to a locker, and sometimes it goes missing.   The search was unlawful.  The 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects against unreasonable searches and seizures. In many cases, police need a warrant to conduct a lawful search.  A warrant isn’t always needed, though. Police can search for items and areas where a person has no reasonable expectation of privacy. For example, if the drugs are in plain view, or a suspect gives police permission to search their car, the police can proceed to search without a warrant.  Entrapment Entrapment is when a police officer pressures or induces someone to commit a crime they wouldn’t otherwise commit.  While entrapment isn’t exactly a “bad evidence” concern, it is one of bad police conduct.   In drug enforcement actions, police will set up undercover operations. Entrapment often occurs when the state provides the drugs in question.   Defense #3: Statutory Defenses  Another possible defense is that you are legally allowed to possess the controlled substance, or you fall under a legal exception.  You have a valid prescription If you carry a valid prescription for a controlled substance, then your possession of that substance isn’t illegal.  Medical Marijuana In New Jersey, patients who carry a medical marijuana ID card are allowed to possess up to 2 ounces of usable marijuana per month.  This defense is never available on federal drug charges. However, if you’re being charged under state law, this defense might be available.  Good Samaritan Law In 2013, New Jersey adopted the Overdose Prevention Act to help reduce overdoses and fatalities.  The law gives immunity to people who seek medical attention for themselves or on behalf of someone else in connection with a drug overdose. The immunity protects them from being arrested, charged, prosecuted, or convicted for a drug offense.  Defend Yourself Against Drug Possession Charges with a Criminal Defense Attorney Do you need to know more about how to get a possession charge dismissed? Beating a drug possession charge is no easy task. The best way to make sure you’re aware of every defense that might apply to your case is to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. Criminal defense attorneys use the defenses above and more to potentially reduce penalties or eliminate the charge altogether. Contact the Law Offices of Anthony J. Vecchio to schedule your free consultation.

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how to drop domestic abuse charges in nj

Domestic violence is a serious crime in the eyes of New Jersey. When police are called to a domestic dispute, they can arrest an alleged abuser, even if the victim does not want them to. The police can also arrest an alleged abuser if there is no witness to testify against him. Once arrested, the prosecutor must decide whether to bring criminal charges. The victim is not required to take part in the arrest or conviction of an abuser. What happens if you or a loved one has been arrested for domestic violence? What can you do to help him or her? In this article, we’ll discuss how to drop domestic violence charges in New Jersey. Contact a criminal defense attorney for review of your case. Why Can’t You Just Drop Charges? Oftentimes people are in romantic relationships with their abusers. As a result, many victims try to protect the person who is abusing or terrorizing them. Some abusers bully or scare their victims into getting charges dismissed.   As a result, the prosecutor can bring charges against your partner or spouse even if you don’t agree to it. New Jersey does not need a victim to “file charges” against an abuser, so they do not give victims a right to “drop charges.” What Can You Do? The fact that the prosecutor can bring charges even if you don’t agree doesn’t mean that they will. Prosecutors like to get defendants to take a plea deal; the defendant agrees to plead guilty for a reduced charge or promise of a lighter sentence. But if a defendant rejects a plea deal, prosecutors must present their case to a jury. A prosecutor needs evidence that domestic violence occurred to get a conviction. A criminal defendant can take the Fifth instead of testifying against himself. Often, the only two people who saw the violence were the abuser and his victim, meaning you. So, what happens if you don’t want to testify against a partner or spouse? The state will send you a subpoena to force you to testify. If you refuse, then the judge can hold you in contempt. In other cases, the prosecutor might rely on other evidence, such as a 9-1-1 call. This can be used to prove that an attack occurred. To understand your options, you need to identify the evidence the state has: Request a copy of the police report. This should give you some sense of what evidence the prosecutor has. You’ll also find out if the defendant made any incriminating statements. If so, trying to fight the charges will be an uphill battle. Discuss your case with an attorney. There may be options. For example, you might have been intoxicated the night of the alleged domestic violence. Bringing this fact to trial could help undermine the evidence that violence took place. How Can an Attorney Help? If you were arrested for domestic violence, you need to understand your rights and know if a plea offer is a good deal. Not every domestic violence conviction leads to time in jail. A lawyer can review the evidence and help you decide what steps to take. If you are a victim or witness—say, the defendant’s girlfriend, boyfriend or spouse—you need to understand what will happen to you if the prosecutor brings charges. We cannot tell you to lie on the witness stand, but you might have options for making it hard to use you as a witness. In theory the prosecutor can bring charges without the victim’s cooperation. In practice, however, it can be tough for them to get a conviction when a victim doesn’t cooperate. Call Us to Schedule a Free Consultation Anthony J. Vecchio is an experienced criminal defense lawyer who has spent years working as a prosecutor. He now uses his talents to represent those unfairly accused of a crime. To get started, contact one of his offices today to schedule a case evaluation.

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what is simple assault

TV, films, and pop culture often cause lots of confusion with assault and other related crimes. This uncertainty and misinformation also results from the assault statute’s complicated language. If you need a simple explanation of simple assault, you’ve come to the right place. So, what is simple assault? This overview can give you important information about simple assault, along with legal support from your New Jersey criminal defense lawyer. Definition of Simple Assault in New Jersey There are many different charges that may come into play when you’re in a fight with another person, whether it is physical or not. You could be arrested for simple assault if: You attempted to hurt someone, but didn’t touch him or her; or, You put another person in fear because you created a threat of physical, harmful contact. The New Jersey assault statute is crucial to know because it describes exactly what a prosecutor must prove to convict you. The elements of simple assault are: Intent to threaten or cause fear of harm to another person, such as through words or gestures; Reasonable thought from the victim who thought that physical harm would result from your actions; and, Actual harm to the victim, which may be physical in nature but is not required to cause bodily harm. In some cases, it may be enough that the victim felt threatened based on the circumstances, your words, and your gestures. Distinctions Between Simple Assault and Other Crimes Most confusion about assault comes from the fact that many people associate it with the term “assault and battery.” There are two separate crimes in this scenario. Battery is unlawful, non-consensual contact that’s offensive or harmful to the victim. Assault may or may not involve physical contact, so it’s often linked to battery. Still, you can be arrested for assault without making any contact if your actions create a risk of harm. How is simple assault different from aggravated assault?. In New Jersey, the offense crosses over to aggravated assault if: You try to harm someone under circumstances implying a disregard for the value of human life; You cause or attempt to cause harm with a deadly weapon; Your recklessness with a deadly weapon causes harm to another person; or, You commit a crime that qualifies as simple assault, but your actions are directed at someone designated by statute. Examples include law enforcement, fire fighters, or school employees. Penalties for a Simple Assault Conviction In most cases, simple assault is a disorderly persons crime in New Jersey. As a misdemeanor, you face up to six months’ imprisonment and a $1,000 fine if you’re convicted. Under certain circumstances, you could be arrested for simple assault if you’re in a situation with “mutual combatants”, such as a bar fight. You could be sentenced to 30 days in jail for a conviction on this petty person’s offense. An Attorney Can Help with Potential Defenses to Simple Assault Charges There are strategies to fight charges in any criminal case, so it’s important to remember that an arrest is NOT a conviction. A prosecutor must prove that you’re guilty beyond a reasonable doubt to get a conviction. With the help of a criminal defense lawyer, you can attack the prosecution’s case and create that shred of doubt. There are also other defenses to fight simple assault charges in New Jersey:  You were acting in self-defense or to defend others. If the other person was trying to harm you, or hurt another person, the evidence may be enough to defeat the charges. You could present proof that you were acting to protect your own property.  Because prosecutors must prove intent, you could beat simple assault charges if there’s proof that you never meant to cause assault. Remember that these defenses cannot prevent conviction for simple assault unless they’re presented to the court. Police only need probable cause to arrest you, but prosecutors need proof beyond a reasonable doubt. When your case goes to trial, the only way to make sure the judge hears your defenses is to raise them by motion. If you don’t have a legal background, you may not know how to file: A motion to ban evidence that was unlawfully obtained by a violation of your constitutional right against unlawful search and seizure; A motion to compel information that the prosecutor is holding against your interests; or, Motions to dismiss the charges for insufficient evidence. A skilled attorney has experience in motion practice, which could lead to a dismissal of the charges or an acquittal. A lawyer can also work on a plea bargain, which could benefit first-time offenders. Consult with a New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney Today Hopefully this summary gives you enough information to understand what simple assault is. However, you also need extensive experience and knowledge when it comes to legal representation in court. Our team can help with your case, so please contact the Law Offices of Anthony J. Vecchio, LLC to speak with one of our lawyers. We can schedule a consultation to meet with you at any of our five offices in New Jersey.

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shoplifting laws in nj

If you think of shoplifting as a harmless prank or minor offense, think again. Shoplifting laws in NJ are very serious. There are very serious consequences for retail theft in New Jersey. Beyond the potential jail time, fines, mandatory community service, and probation, you may face even more sanctions and consequences for a conviction. Shoplifting laws in New Jersey cover a wider range of acts than you might expect. Your conduct may result in a crime under the statute, even when you think you did nothing wrong. Remember that you always have the right to fight these charges in court, and let a New Jersey criminal defense attorney help you. Here is a quick summary of the laws, potential punishments, and strategies for protecting your rights in a shoplifting case. Acts That May Constitute Shoplifting You may think that New Jersey’s shoplifting laws only cover situations where you take an item off a store shelf, put it in your pocket, and walk out. However, there are many other forms of misconduct that could lead to an arrest, including: Any act of depriving the merchant of the possession, value, or benefit of merchandise; Concealing a product on your person or other location, which is for sale to other store customers; Removing, altering, or transferring a label that shows price or other data used to determine the value of merchandise—then trying to buy the item for less than the established value; Taking an item from its display and moving it to another area that shows a different price and deprives the merchant of its assigned value; Allowing or causing a person to “under-ring” merchandise to deprive the merchant of the full value; and, Removing a shopping cart from a store’s property, knowing that you were leaving the merchant without the use and benefit of it. In-Store Detentions Under shoplifting laws in New Jersey, stores, their employees, and security guards can detain people suspected of shoplifting. All they need to do so is probable cause, which means that they need evidence to convince others that you are shoplifting. From there, store employees can hold you under reasonable circumstances. Three factors may be relevant: The length of time you’re held; The space where you’re detained; and, Whether force was used to detain you. Any extremes with these factors could result in legal action. This could be a defense to shoplifting charges or a civil suit for false imprisonment and/or wrongful arrest. Shoplifting Grades and Penalties Charges relating to shoplifting proceed according to the value of the merchandise: You face a Disorderly Persons Offense if the items are under $200. If convicted, you could receive up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. It’s a Fourth Degree Crime if the merchandise has value of $200 – $500. A judge may sentence up to 18 months of jail time and a fine of $10,000. The charges may be Third Degree Crime for products ranging from $500 – $75,000. This could lead to 3-5 years in prison and a fine of $15,000.  You face Second Degree Crime charges if the retail value of the merchandise exceeds $75,000. For a conviction, you face at least five years in prison and up to 10 years’ jail time. You could also receive a fine of up to $150,000. Besides these sanctions, there are other implications for a shoplifting conviction. Theft crimes generally allow a judge to order restitution. This means you must pay back the merchant (the victim) that you shoplifted from. You’ll also be responsible for paying interest on the merchandise and court costs. There are collateral consequences to consider as well, since you’ll have a criminal conviction on your record. You could experience employment difficulties and other situations that need background checks. Defenses to Shoplifting Charges Despite the strict shoplifting laws in NJ on retail theft, there may be strategies to fight the charges if you’re arrested. In any criminal case the prosecution must prove that you’re guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Without witnesses, the case can be difficult for a prosecutor to prove. The state may rely on security camera footage, so it may be possible to attack this evidence if it’s unclear or grainy. The prosecutor must also show intent – i.e., that you stole merchandise. It’s easy to pick up an item when you’re in a store and carry it around; you could forget that you’re even holding it. Under these circumstances, you probably didn’t mean to engage in retail theft. When you want to defend shoplifting charges, you must have solid legal counsel. You might be facing jail time, fines, restitution, and even more consequences. An attorney can help by proving weaknesses in the prosecutor’s case and presenting evidence to defend you. In some cases, it may be possible to work out a plea bargain to reduce the charges. Contact a New Jersey Criminal Defense Lawyer for Legal Help If you were arrested for shoplifting in New Jersey, legal representation is critical. Unless you have a legal background, you put your rights at risk if you try to handle the charges yourself. For more information on shoplifting laws and defenses, please contact the Law Offices of Anthony J. Vecchio, LLC to set up a consultation. Our firm has five offices serving clients throughout New Jersey, and we are always prepared to tackle challenges in all types of criminal cases.

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nj drug laws and penalties

When facing any type of drug charges in New Jersey, it is important to learn more about drug laws and penalties. No matter how minor your drug charge case might seem, it is critical to hire a New Jersey drug defense attorney.  An experienced lawyer will begin working with you on a defense strategy tailored to the specific facts of your case. A criminal defense attorney at our firm can discuss your case with you. In the meantime, we want to provide you with more information about New Jersey drug laws and penalties. Drug Possession in New Jersey The New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice (N.J. Rev. Stat. § 2C:35-10) governs most drug possession offenses in New Jersey, including possession of drug paraphernalia (N.J. Rev. Stat. § 2C:36-1). Drug possession is when “any person, knowingly or purposely,” obtains or possesses, “actually or constructively,” any controlled substance without a prescription. New Jersey state law and federal drug laws classify drugs into five categories. Schedule I drugs are the most dangerous and have the most serious penalties, while schedule V drugs are the least dangerous and have the lowest penalties. I: examples may include marijuana or heroin; II: examples can include methamphetamine, cocaine, and oxycodone; III: examples can include vicodin, codeine, and other prescription painkillers; IV: examples include lorazepam (Ativan), alprazolam (Xanax), clonazepam (Klonopin), and diazepam (Valium); and V: examples include cough medicines containing low levels of codeine. The statute of possession of drug paraphernalia states that the possession of all materials used in anything from planting to packaging, ingesting or inhaling, or otherwise introducing controlled dangerous substance to the human body.  Examples of drug paraphernalia according to the statute include: Kits for planting or growing controlled substances; Tools used to process or prepare controlled substances; Devices used to increase the potency of a controlled substance; Testing equipment to determine the purity or strength of a controlled substance; Scales and balances used for weighing or measuring drugs; and Containers used to package controlled substances. Distribution of Drugs Under New Jersey Law New Jersey law (N.J. Rev. Stat. § 2C:35-5) makes it unlawful for anyone, knowingly or purposely, “to manufacture, distribute, dispense, or to possess or have under his control with intent to manufacture, distribute or dispense, a controlled dangerous substance or controlled analog.” The statute also makes it unlawful to “create, distribute, or possess or have under his control with intent to distribute, a counterfeit controlled dangerous substance.” Having a certain amount of a drug can increase the offense to a distribution offense. The amount of the drug will suggest that the defendant had the intent to distribute it.  Penalties for Drug Convictions in New Jersey The penalties for drug possession, distribution, and manufacturing convictions depend on many factors. These include the type of drug and the specific offense. Distribution and manufacturing charges tend to be more severe than possession charges. Even drug possession charges can result in many years of imprisonment. The following are possible penalties based on the classification of the drug offense: First-degree crime: This is the most serious of all offenses. Examples include large-scale drug distribution charges. Penalties include up to 20 years in prison and up to $200,000 in fines. Second-degree crime: Lower-scale drug distribution charges are an example of a second-degree crime. Penalties include up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000. Third-degree crime: Examples include possession of a Schedule I, II, III, or IV drug. Penalties include up to five years in prison and up to $35,000 in fines. Fourth-degree crime: Examples include possession of a Schedule V drug. Penalties include a term of imprisonment up to 18 months and a $15,000 fine. Disorderly persons: This is the least serious type of offense. Examples include possession of marijuana (50 grams or less) and possession of drug paraphernalia. Penalties include a jail term of up to six months and a $1,000 fine. First Offense Drug Charges in New Jersey and Diversionary Programs For low-level first offenses in New Jersey, an offender may be eligible for the Conditional Discharge Program for disorderly persons offenses. The Conditional Discharge Program allows the defendant to have the charge dismissed after a period of time. This is only as long as the defendant follows all the requirements of the program. Enrollment in this program means that the defendant will not get the penalties for the offense. They can also be eligible to have the charge dismissed if they complete the program. To be eligible for Conditional Discharge, the following must be true: No prior criminal record (be a first-time criminal offender); No previous entry into a diversionary program; and Be charged with a lower level drug offense. Program completion requires the defendant to pass all drug tests and stay out of the criminal justice system for six months to one year. If you are facing a higher-level drug offense (for example, a third-degree crime or a fourth-degree crime) you may be eligible for a diversionary program known as Pretrial Intervention (PTI)–a program for first-time offenders. They can have the charges dismissed after a probationary period of one to three years.  Contact a Drug Defense Attorney in New Jersey Are you facing drug charges? A drug crimes defense lawyer in New Jersey can assist you. Contact the Law Offices of Anthony J. Vecchio LLC today.

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constructive possession of drugs

Facing drug charges causes lots of anxiety. As a first-time offender who doesn’t have any experience with the criminal justice system, it is overwhelming. Many people who are charged with possession of a controlled substance are charged because they were simply near the drugs. Legally speaking, this is called constructive possession, which allows a law enforcement official to arrest a person for drug possession even if that person did not physically possess the drugs. We want to provide you with more information about the constructive possession of drugs and the importance of having a New Jersey criminal defense attorney on your side during this process. What is Constructive Possession in New Jersey? You might have heard about distinctions between actual and constructive drug possession. If you do not have drugs, how can you be charged with possession of a controlled substance? The answer to this question concerns constructive possession. This is a situation where you did not have drugs in your possession, but you knew about the presence of drugs and they were in your control. Constructive Possession is Unlawful Under New Jersey Law If you constructively possess a drug, you can still be charged with drug possession in New Jersey. The charges you face will depend on the type of drug that you possessed. Examples of Constructive Possession Cases in Which You Could Face Arrest There are many scenarios where a person may be arrested for constructive possession. The following are some hypothetical examples of scenarios that may require the help of a defense attorney: You own a car and allow your friend to drive the car on occasion. Your friend has been arrested for possession of marijuana. You suspect that your friend sometimes uses your car to buy marijuana. He gets stopped after running a red light, and the police officer finds marijuana in your trunk. You suspect that your friend left the marijuana in the trunk. You did not put the marijuana in the trunk, but because the car belongs to you, you may be charged with constructive possession of marijuana. Mary owns a home, and she rents a room to Lisa, who throws parties and talks about using methamphetamine. Lisa tells Mary that she stores drugs in the bathroom that they share. Mary thinks, “I should flush those down the toilet since it is my house,” but she forgets. Police officers get a search warrant for Lisa’s home, even though Mary owns it. When the police search the house, they find the drugs in the bathroom. Since Mary owns the home and knew about Lisa’s drug use, Mary could face constructive possession charges. Ned buys a small amount of a controlled substance and places it in his wallet. He visits a friend’s house and takes his wallet out of his pocket. Ned then puts his wallet in his friend’s living room and ends up forgetting his wallet at the house. The next day, the police search the house with a lawful warrant and find Ned’s wallet. At first, Ned is relieved that he did not have the wallet during the search. However, Ned is later arrested for constructive possession since the drugs were in his wallet. Seek Advice from a NJ Drug Defense Lawyer About Constructive Possession Charges Constructive possession is a confusing concept. The key takeaway is that a person can be arrested for constructive possession of drugs in New Jersey. If you are facing constructive possession charges, speak with a New Jersey drug crimes defense lawyer right away. Your attorney will help you learn more about your possible defenses.  Our firm has years of experience building defenses for clients facing constructive possession charges. Let’s start working on your case today. Contact the Law Offices of Anthony J. Vecchio LLC for more information about the services we provide.

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kid gets arrested

As every parent knows, children sometimes get themselves into trouble. In some cases, they may end up in very serious trouble that lands them in the criminal justice system. The New Jersey Juvenile Justice Commission reports that hundreds of minors are charged as delinquents each week. There are few things more stressful for a parent than learning that their child was arrested. If your child is facing charges, you need to know how to protect their rights and their future. Here, our New Jersey juvenile defense attorney highlights the most important things that you need to do in this situation. Four Things to Do After Your Child Gets Arrested in New Jersey 1. Find Out Exactly What Happened and What They are Facing Nothing should come before your child’s health, safety, and well-being. You need to be able to get as much information as you can about their case. There are laws in place that provide some protections to juvenile offenders. In New Jersey, the police should notify parents immediately about where their child is and what they are being charged with.  Among other things, minors receive quick initial hearings. Juveniles are often released to their parents after an arrest or detainment. However, there are some exceptions to that general rule. If you are having trouble getting information, your rights or your child’s rights may have been violated. An experienced defense attorney can help you get the answers that you need and deserve.  2. Call an Experienced Juvenile Justice Attorney If your child is facing a juvenile delinquency hearing, you should call a lawyer as soon as possible. Navigating New Jersey’s juvenile justice system is complex and confusing. A lawyer will explain the process to you and prepare you for the next steps and potential consequences. A New Jersey juvenile delinquency attorney will protect your child’s rights and interests, and protect them from suffering any long-term consequences related to the arrest. 3. Explore All Options for Rehabilitation There are many rehabilitative options for children in New Jersey’s juvenile justice system. A youthful indiscretion should not harm your child’s future. Law enforcement and prosecutors do not always make the process easy on children and their parents. In some cases, they may not give parents useful information about alternative options. A lawyer can help you make sure that your child is treated fairly and gets access to the services that they need. Many different options and programs are available in New Jersey. These include community service, paying restitution, counseling, or substance abuse programs. The goal is to protect your child’s rights and future and to get them back on the correct path.  4. Be Ready to Take Action to Get Records Sealed Parents should always make a plan to get their child’s records sealed. Start thinking about this as early on in the process as possible. You do not want a criminal record to impact your child’s ability to get into college or get a job. Under state law (N.J.S.A. 2C:52-1), most juvenile records are eligible for expungement. After enough time has passed and certain conditions have been met, your child will no longer have a criminal record. With proper planning, expungement of juvenile records can be done quickly. If you have questions about getting records sealed, a New Jersey expungement lawyer can help. Speak to Our New Jersey Juvenile Defense Lawyer Right Away At the Law Offices of Anthony J. Vecchio, LLC, our New Jersey criminal defense attorney is a compassionate and committed advocate for juveniles. If your child was arrested or charged as a delinquent, our legal team is here to help. To set up a confidential legal consultation, contact us today.

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jail time for dui

If you receive a DUI in New Jersey, you could be facing jail time. How much jail time exactly? It depends on the specific circumstances of your case. Here, our New Jersey DUI defense lawyer gives an overview of the drunk driving penalties in our state. We address the three key factors that will determine how much jail time you will be facing if you are convicted of intoxicated driving. Jail Time for DUI in New Jersey: What You Need to Know Do You Have a History of Intoxicated Driving Offenses? Under New Jersey state law (N.J.S.A. 39:4-50), drivers are charged with a DUI if their blood alcohol concentration is 0.08% or more, or if a substance is impairing them. A key factor that determines jail time for a DUI arrest is their driving history. New Jersey usually punishes each drunk driving offense more than the previous one. The range of potential jail time for a DUI in New Jersey is: First time DUI offense: A defendant may face up to 30 days in jail. Second time DUI offense: A defendant may face between 48 hours and  90 days in jail. Third time DUI offense: A defendant will face a minimum of 180 days in jail. Are There Any Aggravating Factors? DUI conviction history is not the only thing that the state of New Jersey considers when penalizing intoxicated drivers. There are circumstances where a defendant could face more jail time. These are often referred to as ‘aggravating factors’. If an aggravating factor is present, you are likely to face more severe penalties. The most common aggravating factors in New Jersey are: Having a BAC level at or above 0.15 percent; Engaging in reckless driving while impaired; Getting a DUI while in a school zone; Getting a DUI with a child in the car; or Involvement in an accident while under the influence. The most serious form of DUI is vehicular homicide. If a drunk driver causes an accident that results in death, they may face felony charges and a long prison sentence. If you or your loved one was arrested for a DUI with aggravated factors, call a criminal defense lawyer right away. You must take immediate action in these cases. How Will You Defend Your Case? You will not face any jail time until you plead guilty or the prosecution proves the DUI charge and gets a conviction. How much jail time you will face in a DUI case depends, in large part, on the strength of your legal defense. Consult with a top-rated New Jersey drunk driving defense lawyer after being arrested and charged with a crime. Your DUI lawyer will review your case and determine how to protect your rights. One of the primary goals of New Jersey DUI defense lawyer Anthony J. Vecchio is keeping clients out of jail. When there are options to avoid any jail time — as is often the case with first time DUIs — Mr. Vecchio helps his clients get access to those options. Your rights and freedom must be protected during this process. Do not go up against prosecutors alone. Get Help From Our New Jersey DUI Defense Lawyer Right Away At the Law Offices of Anthony J. Vecchio, LLC, our top-rated New Jersey drunk driving defense attorney is a strong advocate for clients. If you or your loved one is facing potential jail time for an intoxicated driving offense, we are here to help. To set up an initial consultation, please contact us today.

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