Union County Criminal Lawyer Blog
We appeared in Union County Superior Court today in an ongoing First Degree Robbery case. We were retained in the matter approximately a year ago and are defending a gentleman who was basically a “look out” for what turned out to be an armed robbery in Union County. While the client clearly had knowledge that a robbery would take place, he had no idea that it was going to be perpetrated with a weapon or, for that matter, that one of the participants was going to pistol whip a victim. One might say that our client has things come to him but I cannot agree with this assessment. He is honestly credible when he relates that he was coerced into participating in the robbery. Unfortunately, the supervising prosecutor has been unwilling to place any significant weight on this defense.
As the situation presently stands, our client is looking at a First Degree Robbery offense and 10-20 years in jail. Despite significant effort, the best we could do so far is 7 years in prison with parole ineligibility under NERA (i.e. 85% of sentence must be served before eligible for parole). Any attorneys might view this as a success but we have not. Accordingly, we undertook a strategy to force the prosecution to file a superseding indictment (no new charges against our client). This approach was successful and we just received a notice of superseding indictment. We are hoping that better success can be forged in response to the new indictment. We will keep you posted.
Recent reports have been circulating regarding almost 30 incidents of burglary in Union County. The burglaries are believed to be related and the responsibility of an organized enterprise. Participants ring the doorbell to a home while accomplices approach from the rear. If no one answers the door, the thieves break through and burglarize the property. The majority of the burglary cases arise in Westfield, Berkeley Heights, and Mountainside. Thousands of dollars in theft losses are claimed.
The law governing Burglary Charges in Union County is contained at N.J.S.A. 2C:18-2. It provides that a burglary is committed whenever someone enters a structure without authority to do so for the purpose of committing some form of criminal offense. The motivation for entry need not be to commit a theft but simply some form of crime. A burglary can therefore result where the reason for entry is to commit, for example, an assault or criminal mischief. Burglary is typically a third degree offense but can escalate to a second degree where bodily force or threats are involved, or where a deadly weapon is displayed.
We will keep you posted on how the situation unfolds with respect to any arrests or burglary charges.
While purse snatchings are common in major cities, I usually do not connect the City of Linden with such a robbery. The exception was the case earlier in the week when a young man knocked a Union County woman to the ground to steal her purse. The woman was initially successful in escaping the theft but the assailant ran her down and slapped her in the face causing her to fall to the ground. The thief made off with the purse and has yet to be apprehended.
In accordance with N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1 of New Jersey Criminal Law, a theft committed by means of force is a “robbery”. A robbery is a Second Degree Crime punishable by up to 5-10 years of incarceration when it is committed without a weapon. The crime escalates to a First Degree offense when the robbery is committed using a weapon. The No Early Release Act (“NERA”) imposes a 85% parole ineligibility which must be applied by a Union County judge in the event that this individual is convicted of robbery.
The goal in any case is always to avoid conviction. This is particularly true in a robbery case given the implications of NERA. Our focus in cases like these is always to have the charge amended to theft of the person thereby negating application of the No Early Release Act.
From August 21 through September 7, sobriety checkpoints will be conducted in Union County as part of the “Over the Limit – Under Arrest” campaign. The first roadblock has been scheduled by Union County and the Kenilworth Police and shall be conducted on August 27, 2009. The roadblock shall be positioned at the interection of Kenilworth Boulevard and Michigan Avenue and shall run from 8:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m.
Roadblocks and DWI checkpoints are actually much more common than many people know. Notwithstanding, the odds of someone encountering one is low, particularly when you consider that professionals are made aware of sobriety stops long before they are conducted; the law requires Union County and other counties and municipalities to publish notice of a checkpoint in order for the detail to be legal.
If you have the unfortunate luck of being charged with a Union County dwi as a result of a roadblock, we can assist you.
For months now, the Union County Prosecutors Office and police throughout the County have been attempting to apprehend a reputed drug dealer. The suspect is alleged to be a kingpin in a cocaine distribution and trafficking ring based out of Elizabeth. He is also believed to be a high level member of the “Bloods”.
The defendant has a long history with the law. The pending charges involve RICO, maintaining a cocaine drug production facility, distribution of CDS and numerous weapons offenses. His bail is set at $5,000,000 but efforts to seize him have proved unsuccessful. Law enforcement has been provided with several opportunities to arrest the defendant but he has narrowly escaped these efforts.
The defendant in this case is undoubtedly dangerous and also illusive. He certainly does not want to be arrested as he shall be exposed to First Degree charges that fall within the Brimage guidelines. He very well could be looking at jail exposure that includes the potential for life imprisonment.
We read about sizable drug possession busts all the time that involve Union County. Well, there was certainly a sizable one last Friday. In this regard, a Union County man from Elizabeth was charged with possession of between $8,000,000 and $10,000,000 of heroin. The arrest is believed to be the largest seizure of pure heroin (i.e. was not cut for distribution) in related County history.
Possession with Intent to Distribute is a First Degree Offense when it involves 5.0 ounces or more of Heroin. These charges undoubtedly carry a First Degree Grade and the crime is punishable by ten to twenty years in prison. It may be, however, that this suspect will be charged as a Leader of a Drug Trafficking Network and even Maintaining a Drug Production Facility, given the extraordinary quantity of heroin and the fact that it was not yet packaged. If charged with these offenses too, this gentleman very well may be exposed to a jail term covering most of his remaining life.
When the stakes in a Union County heroin case are as high as this one, there is sometimes little downside to pushing the prosecutor to the limit. What I mean is that there may be so much mandatory jail involved and such a hard line taken by the prosecutor, that the defense has limited relative exposure in fighting the seizure and even forcing the case to trial. Whether the Union County suspect has any success in this regard may hinge on the experience and knowledge of his criminal attorney. I can tell you first hand, however, that good heroin distribution defense lawyers do not come cheap on First Degree charges.
If you have been reading the newspapers lately, you probably have seen an article or two concerning prisoners who have come into possession of cell phones. This is apparently a significant problem for the Union County Correctional Institute and other jails around the state. The issue is not only the mobile telephones themselves but also the fact that it is claimed that many convicts are using them to continue criminal activities within Union County and elsewhere.
The heat was so high on this issue that a state corrections officer from Union was arrested for conspiracy this week for his role in providing cells to prisoners. It is alleged that the guard conspired with the recipient of the phones, a known member of the Latin Kings. The devices were seized earlier this year at East Jersey State Prison and were ultimately traced to the officer. He was arrested on a charge of conspiracy, as well as other offenses. His bail is set at $50,000.
This case definitely has a strong possibility of problems for the defendant. The prisoners involved really have no major incentive to protect the suspect and, quite to the contrary, can probably earn consideration for corroborating the conspiracy. Things are not looking good for the suspect, especially if law enforcement has hard evidence.
Approximately one month ago, a woman from Rahway had an unexpected encounter at Diary Queen in Cranford. As she existed her vehicle, a young man pushed her aside and stole her vehicle. The suspect fled the scene and the vehicle was later recovered in Newark.
The Cranford Police were able to make an arrest last week. The defendant is a 18 year old man from Newark. He was apprehended at a Fairfield hotel with the assistance of the Fairfield Police Department. The man has been charged with carjacking and bail is set at $150,000.
Carjacking is a First Degree Crime that carries a sentence of at least 10 years in prison. What many people may not know is that an individual need not hold a person in a vehicle in order for a carjacking charge or indictment to be viable. N.J.S.A. 2C:15-2 also applies to any force or threats of force during the course of a car theft. This young man has very serious problems and can expect to serve years in prison in accordance with N.J.S.A. 2C:15-2. It should also be noted that the No Early Release Act (“NERA”) shall require that he serve 85% of any prison term before he is even eligible for parole. He obviously needs to hire a good defense attorney in Union County.
One of the more common varieties of burglary is a car break-in. This can be confusing as lay people often equate burglary with home invasion. This is not the case in actuality as the unauthorized entry into any “structure” for purposes of committing a crime suffices. The law considers a car to be a structure for purposes of the burglary statute – N.J.S.A. 2C:18-2.
A good example of how this law functions occurred this week in Summit. In this regard, a Newark man was charged with burglary and theft for allegedly breaking into at least 8 cars in town. The primary items stolen from the vehicles were ipod and similar electronic equipment. The suspect’s bail has been set at $10,000.
As I stated, cars are popular targets for thefts and burglary. We find this pedigree of crime to be frequently committed by juveniles and young adults, although we do have occasion to represent individuals of all ages on these charges. Thankfully, these are typically non-violent crimes and are generally on the low end in terms of seriousness.
A convict from the Union County jail escaped from custody earlier this summer. The defendant was apparently working outside of the jail on a garbage detail and decided to run. The correction officer(s) were unable to stop him but he was later apprehended in Newark. It now turns out that he may have been assisted in the escape.
The Union County Prosecutors Office filed formal charges against an uncle of the escapee earlier this week. The gentleman is charged with conspiracy and aiding an escape. He is being held at Union County Jail on $500,000 bail.
Conspiracy is a common offense in Union County Superior Court and elsewhere in New Jersey. An individual is guilty of conspiracy if he enters into an agreement to commit or assist in the commission of a crime and engages in some form of overt act which advances commission of the offense. It is unclear from the news accounts what this gentle is alleged to have done to assist in the escape but there should be significant evidence in this regard based on the high bail amount. Likelihood of conviction is a consideration in setting bail (not to mention flight risk) so one would assume that there is hard evidence of involvement by the uncle. Irrespective, the bail seems much too high given my experience as a Union County NJ Criminal Attorney. A bail motion undoubtedly needs to be filed.