What is a “petty crime” in New Jersey, and what are its consequences?

In Mercer County NJ, “petty” refers to a class of minor disorderly persons charges.

There is a common misconception in New Jersey about “petty crime.”  According to New Jersey law, disorderly persons charges, petty or otherwise, are known as “offenses,” and more serious, indictable offenses are known as “crimes.”

What is a “petty crime” in New Jersey, and what are its consequences?There is also a common misconception that a disorderly person charge is no big deal doesn’t hurt anyone, and won’t affect your long-term legal standing. This couldn’t be further from the truth. These types of what are commonly known as misdemeanors can cause great harm to a community and its people, and as such, judges are often harsh when convicting offenders of misdemeanor crimes in order to discourage them from breaking the law again. The disorderly persons offenses that makeup misdemeanors often include harassment and other psychologically abusive behaviors, and prosecutors and judges both tend not to stand for that type of behavior in their communities. Read on to learn what types of misdemeanors make up “petty crimes,” and why it is important to seek the support of a criminal defense lawyer, one who has experience in the municipal court system and knows how the prosecution builds their cases against offenders, to combat your charge.

How are charges categorized in New Jersey?

In New Jersey, criminal offenses are not categorized as misdemeanors and felonies. Instead, they are put into the categories of indictable crimes, disorderly persons offenses, and petty disorderly persons offenses. Both categories of disorderly persons offenses make up what in other states is referred to as misdemeanor offenses, and indictable crimes are generally called felonies. In New Jersey, both classes of misdemeanors are punishable by a maximum of one year in jail. They are handled at the municipal court level.

According to New Jersey Statutes 2C:1-4, which governs the classes of offenses in the state, notes that both disorderly persons offenses and petty disorderly offenses do not constitute crimes, as laid out by the New Jersey State Constitution. As such, they can not be indicted by a grand jury or tried by a jury, and conviction of the offense cannot be used to place them at any legal disadvantage.

Examples of disorderly persons offenses include the following:

  • Harassment – continuing and unwarranted communication with another person
  • Creating a dangerous condition in public – this could include a wide variety of actions
  • Simple assault – causing minimal bodily harm or threatening bodily harm to another person
  • How are charges categorized in New Jersey?Public intoxication – being over the legal alcohol limit or being under the influence of a regulated substance in public
  • Lewdness – exposing genitals for the purpose of sexual or personal gratification
  • Resisting arrest – failure to quietly follow the orders of an arresting police officer
  • Shoplifting – taking something from the premises of a store without payment
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia – possession of equipment typically used with drugs, including bongs, rolling papers, and pipes
  • Possession of fewer than 50 grams of marijuana
  • Vandalism – property damage totaling fewer than $500

Other disorderly persons offenses exist; this is a list of among the most commonly prosecuted offenses. Depending on the severity of the offense and the type, allegations of having committed one or more of the above offenses could result in a petty disorderly persons charge or a disorderly persons charge, which carry differing consequences.

Potential consequences, and why to have a criminal defense lawyer

There are a number of potential consequences for petty crimes. Someone charged with a disorderly persons charge can face up to six months in jail, while a petty disorderly charge carries a potential jail sentence of 30 days. Fines for a disorderly persons charge can be up to $1,000, while a petty disorderly persons charge carries a potential fine of $500. Additionally, someone charged with a disorderly persons charge, petty or otherwise, faces court costs, restitution, and potential community service. They will also have a criminal record that will not be expunged for 3 years.

An experienced criminal defense lawyer can get a disorderly persons to charge lessened in severity to petty or dismissed altogether. The main path by which a charge is dismissed is the proof that there was any reasonable doubt that a crime occurred. This is because a prosecutor holds the burden of proof for proving beyond any reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the charge.

Contact an Experienced Trenton Criminal Defense Attorney to protect your rights

At Kamensky Cohen & Riechelson, our criminal defense attorneys are experienced in supporting our clients across  Trenton office, Princeton, Lawrence, Hamilton, New Brunswick, and across Mercer County with all manner of disorderly persons charges.

To schedule a confidential consultation with an experienced member of our firm today regarding your case, please call us at (609) 528-2596 or go online to schedule a free, no-risk consultation with a personal injury lawyer.

New Jersey’s Risk Assessment Scale & Tier Process for Sexual Offenders

How We Got Here: New Jersey’s Sex Offender Registry

New Jersey’s Risk Assessment Scale & Tier Process for Sexual OffendersPrior to the 1990s, there was inadequate legislation, legal recourse, and information to protect children and the most vulnerable among us from aggravated sexual assault and other dangers. As a result of the Jacob Wetterling Act or Jacob’s Law and its subsequent congressional amendment Megan’s Law or N.J.S.A. 2C:7-1 through 2C:7-11 (which requires the information on sex offender registries to be made public) all 50 states and District of Columbia maintain registries that are open to the public via sex offender registration websites, although some registered sex offenders are visible to law enforcement only. Prior to Megan’s Law, few states required sex offenders to register with local law enforcement or that there be community notification or public registry, factors Megan Kanka’s parents felt would have protected her from her Hamilton Township, New Jersey neighbor, a sex offender who had previously been jailed for similar crimes.

When a defendant in New Jersey is convicted of a sex crime which is also a registerable offense, they must register as a sex offender, thus requiring information to be made publicly available through online databases, even if they are a juvenile. Though the criminal justice system typically treats juveniles differently from adults, the sex offender registration requirement is a notable exception. In New Jersey, Juvenile Justice Commission (JJC) and other organizations, in accordance with N.J.S.A. § 2C:7-3 of Megan’s Law, “shall establish procedures for notifying (juvenile) persons under their supervision of the obligation to register.

What Is the New Jersey Offender Registry Tiering Process?

Megan’s Law was written to improve community safety and to educate and inform the public about sex offenders. After an individual has been charged with a sex crime in New Jersey, he or she must register as a sex offender.

The Registrant Risk Assessment Scale is a prosecutorial tool, and the offender risk level is categorized based on the severity of the crime, a psychological evaluation, treatment programs they have attended, and community support among other things, and are then classified as low, moderate or high risk of reoffending (Tier I, II or III).

  • Tier 1 (low risk): They are not listed on the online registry, and only local law enforcement is notified.
  • Tier 2 (moderate risk): They are usually registered on the online NJ registry and both the community and law enforcement are notified if the individual relocates to the area.
  • Tier 3 (high risk): These offenders most likely to recommit a sex crime. They are ALWAYS on the NJ Sex Registry and both the community and law enforcement are notified if the individual relocates to the area, often with law enforcement making door-to-door notifications.

The New Jersey Sex Offender Internet Registry grants public access to information regarding a sex offender and any past offenses. Typical information people can see can include names, photos, addresses, and crime details among other things. Being on NJ’s state sex offender registry can limit employment and educational opportunities. Although it can be expensive and time-consuming, after a 15 year minimum following conviction or release from a correctional facility, if someone has not reoffended and is unlikely to pose a threat to the safety of others, they can apply to remove their name from the registry.

What About Out-of-State Offenders?

What About Out-of-State Offenders?

New Jersey takes any sex offenders moving to the state very seriously. When a registered sex offender moves to the state of New Jersey, the NJ county prosecutor’s office will obtain the appropriate records from the previous jurisdiction and will conduct a new risk assessment to determine the appropriate tier. As laws vary state-to-state, an offender could end up in a different tier from their previous classification.

This process is due in part to a tragic discrepancy which occurred in 2013, when Rabbi Aryeh Goodman, ranked as a tier-3 offender while living in Pennsylvania was mistakenly put by Middlesex County officials in a tier that kept him off the registry and Goodman ended up sexually assaulting a young person under his care after his move. Having not benefited from previous incarceration or treatment programs, Goodman was rearrested in 2018 for human trafficking and soliciting an underage prostitute, to which he pled guilty and was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

How To Prevent Someone From Abusing NJ Sex Offender Registry Data

Information found on the sex offender registry should not be used to harass, intimidate, or threaten, and cannot be used to deny:

  • housing or living accommodations
  • education, fellowships, or scholarships
  • health insurance
  • credit
  • bank loans or
  • services, privileges or benefits from a business establishment unless the intent is consistent with enhancing public safety

Tier Hearings & Terminations from Megan’s Law & Parole Supervision for Life

Sexual_Abuse_Attorneys_KCRA sex crime conviction will impact your life long after you have paid your debt to society, especially if you are under sex offender management (i.e., Community Supervision for Life/CSL, or Parole Supervision for Life/PSL). Occasionally, Megan’s Law registration can even prevent someone from attending family get together (i.e., one’s own child’s birthday party) and can carry a significant and often humiliating social stigma.

Our firm works with seasoned mental health professionals who understand Megan’s Law and Parole Supervision for Life and the impact it can have. If you are subject to Megan’s Law registration and community notification, or if you face any of the restrictions of PSL/CSL and want to understand what you can do to lessen their impact, talk to the experienced and compassionate lawyers of Kamensky Cohen & Riechelson in New Jersey.

Consult our Trenton Criminal Defense Attorneys Today

A sex crime conviction can change your life forever, destroying career, reputation and personal relationships.  You will most likely face incarceration, heavy fines, and other criminal penalties. If you were charged with aggravated criminal sexual contact in Mercer, Burlington, and Middlesex counties of Pennsylvania, you need to talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to help you fight your charges. We have a proven track record of success in Superior Courts and Municipal Courts across New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Our familiarity with local courtroom procedures and personnel gives us an edge in your case because we have specialized institutional knowledge and unique insight into prosecutorial strategies.

Please, feel free to fill out the online contact form to schedule a meeting at our offices in Trenton New Jersey or contact our Mercer County offices today at (215) 337-4915 to learn more about your rights and how we can help you in this difficult time.

Hate Crime Charges on the Rise in the United States

Trenton NJ Criminal Defense and Hate Crime Attorneys here to protect the rights of those who need it the most

The past few years have seen a rise in the number of hate crimes reported across the nation. A report by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) showed that hate crimes in the United States rose a startling 17 percent in 2017. Even more stark were the numbers reported in the state of New Jersey: in 2017, reported hate crimes rose by 76 percent to 500 incidents. These incidents reflected biases based on race and ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental capacity, gender, and gender identity.

Trenton NJ Criminal Defense and Hate Crime Attorneys here to protect the rights of those who need it the mostThe UCLA Hugh and Hazel Darling Law Library outlines New Jersey state statutes that relate to hate crimes here. These state statutes exist in addition to federal laws regarding hate crimes. A person can be charged with a hate crime for desecrating a venerated object or for defacing specific types of properties, particularly property “primarily used for religious…purposes,” according to N.J. Rev. Stat. § 2C:33-9-11. However, the most well-known hate crime charges involve the assault of a person based, predominantly, on one of the aforementioned aspects of their being. This type of hate crime, according to New Jersey 2C:16-1, is called “bias intimidation.”

The FBI report showed the following breakdown of hate crimes involving bias intimidation across the country in 2017:

  • Nearly 60 percent of victims were targeted for their race, ethnicity, or ancestry.
  • Over 20 percent of victims were targeted because of their religion.
  • Nearly 16 percent of victims were targeted because of their sexual orientation.
  • Nearly 2 percent of victims were targeted for their physical or mental disability.
  • Another nearly 2 percent of victims were targeted for their gender identity.
  • Fewer than one percent of victims were targeted for their gender.

Most often, charges of bias intimidation are reserved for acts committed against individuals; however, it is sometimes the case that someone is charged with bias intimidation for an act of defamation involving a property.

How is someone charged with bias intimidation?

In order for the charge of bias intimidation to be brought forth, it has to be found that a crime was committed. First, that a crime was committed is determined, and then the intent behind the crime is determined. Once it has been determined that a crime was committed, a New Jersey prosecutor must show that at least one of the following is true:

  • How is someone charged with bias intimidation?the crime was committed with the specific intent of intimidating one person or group because of either their race, ethnicity, ancestry, religion, physical or mental disability, gender or gender identity, or sexual orientation;
  • the accused committed the crime knowing it would intimidate some individual or group;
  • the victim felt reasonable intimidated based on the nature of the crime, and rationale would affirm that the reason for the intimidation was based on their race, ethnicity, ancestry, religion, physical or mental disability, gender or gender identity, or sexual orientation.

In the case that the third is found to be true, the prosecutor must prove that the accused acted with the intent to intimidate.

What happens if someone is charged with bias intimidation?

The charge of bias intimidation is very serious and carries potentially serious consequences. Successfully navigated by a prosecuting lawyer, the original charge of bias intimidation can be elevated to a charge resulting in imprisonment. Furthermore, if a crime is committed that is found to have been carried out with the intent of bias intimidation, the sentence for the crime itself and the bias intimidation are served separately, elongating the time the accused is required to serve. The inability to merge sentences is specific to hate crimes, ensuring that the party found guilty serves the maximum penalty available.

Contact Our Mercer County Criminal Law Attorneys Today

Being charged with a hate crime is a serious matter. At Kamensky Cohen & Riechelson, our experienced legal team is experienced in defending the rights of our clients in towns across Mercer County, including Trenton, Hamilton, Lawrence, Princeton, and New Brunswick. in all criminal cases, including charges of hate crimes.

If you have been charged with a hate crime, please contact a member of our legal team today to schedule a comprehensive and confidential consultation to review your case. Reach out to us at (609) 528-2596, fill out our online contact form online, or through our Trenton, NJ office we look forward to representing your legal rights.

Smart Data Used to Convict, Defend, and Appeal in NJ Criminal Courts

Using technology to fight for clients facing criminal charges across New Jersey in Hamilton Township, Trenton, Ewing and across Mercer County

The Benefits of using Smart Data to Reduce CrimeSince the late 1980s, the reduction of crime has been a high priority for the justice system in many communities across New Jersey. According to cityrating.com, this effort has been largely successful.  Beginning in the late 90s both violent crime and property crimes have steadily declined and as of 2019 had reached an all-time low. A large factor in this dramatic reduction in crime has been advances in technology and their implementation by law enforcement agencies and courts across New Jersey.

The use of “Smart data” has allowed law enforcement to focus its efforts and resources in the areas that need it most.  Furthermore, it allows an element of prediction when it comes to crime and offenders. By using smart data, legal officials can make decisions based on the likelihood that someone will commit another crime or even show up for court. Though smart data isn’t perfect at predicting behavior, it narrows the odds in comparison to guessing or assuming.

Smart Data is Unbiased in Criminal Cases

Another advantage is that smart data is unbiased. Given the common criticism that the courts tend to be biased, this assures that judges can make decisions based on what is known about the person factually. Data is collected on a local and national level and offers critical insight into what needs to be considered when making a judgment. When judges can see all of the information they can make decisions based on both local and national norms.

Computer Technology Allows Courts to have all Relevant Information at its Disposal

It was not uncommon for critical information to be overlooked or ignored by courts. This was often due to deadlines and just the quantity of data and paper that needed to be reviewed. Nationwide improvements in the computer technologies used by courts have allowed them to have all pertinent data at their fingertips.

Risk and Liability Assessment of Defendants Becomes a Virtual Ease for Law Enforcement and the Courts

New technologies have made compiling, centralizing and accessing data virtual ease for law enforcement and courts. The processes implemented to help judges assess risk and liability of defendants can come up with a recommendation in a matter of minutes.  Judges can then take those recommendations into account when issuing their rulings. Furthermore, smart data helps save law enforcement lives by allowing an officer to have critical information about suspects and the risk they may pose to an officer.

The Future of Smart Data in the Legal System

Though the use of smart data by courts has brought more just and consistent rulings and sentences, law enforcement has steadily improved its use of technology for the past two centuries. The use of fingerprints was the beginning of the forensic revolution, however, DNA, ballistic analysis, CCTV and other types of technology have also played an important role. Smart data will soon have an even bigger role in law enforcement than any technological development of the 21st Century. National crime databases have made it possible for law enforcement officials to check DNA, fingerprints and other forensic data across different jurisdictions and across the country. Experts have begun to use predictive analytics algorithms to identify broader trends.

Predictive Analytics Algorithms are being leveraged in the following ways:

  • It can help focus emergency resources to fight recent crime waves
  • It can identify the likelihood that someone will be a serial offender
  • It can identify precipitating factors that cause crime epidemics and pass that information to policymakers so that they can take preventive measures

Moreover, smart data has been used for nearly a decade for predictive crime mapping. It has been effective in identifying and predicting crime type, date, time and location. It has been shown that these maps are able to predict where crime will occur as much as 10 times better than the police. As a result, police officers often use these predictive maps to determine patrol areas and to combat crime.

Defendants using Smart Data for Sentencing Appeals

Defendants using Smart Data for Sentencing AppealsThe increased use of smart data has had an unexpected benefit for those appealing unjust sentences.  The United States Sentencing Commission compiles data on sentencing trends nationwide. Attorneys have increasingly used this data to show sentencing inconsistencies.  Put simply, attorneys can argue that a defendant’s sentence was not consistent with their crime or the history of the defendant.

Other organizations like the Bureau of Justice Statistics compiles data on appeals that are filed across the country.  With more information involved in appeals including more information surrounding the complete circumstances surrounding the original crime as well as expanded information about the history of the defendant. With this data, inconsistencies are far more evident and provable.

Contact Our Mercer County Criminal Law Attorneys Today

At The Law Office of Kamensky, Cohen & Riechelson, we have extensive experience with the use of smart data and its application to sentencing appeals in Hamilton Township, Trenton, Ewing and across Mercer County.

Having good and effective legal counsel that understands how smart data can be applied to your appeal can be critical to your case. Our aggressive approach to representing our clients has given us the experience needed to gain the best possible outcome for our clients.

Please contact our firm today in a comprehensive and confidential assessment regarding your case, please call (609) 528-2596 or fill out our online form.

DWI Arrest Has Immigration-Status Implications

DWI Arrest Has Immigration-Status ImplicationsPeople come to America and New Jersey from all over the world. Sometimes temporarily for vacation or to study, and sometimes permanently to live, work, and raise children. Usually, for an individual to enter our borders, they are required to have a Visa. Barring foreign diplomats and consular officials, United States law applies to anyone in the country, regardless of their status as a citizen or visitor. As such, there are certain U.S. laws, including Driving Under the Influence (DUI/DWI) that, when broken, allows The Department of State to revoke an individual’s visa privileges. This can happen even if the person isn’t convicted of a DUI/DWI, only arrested!

In general there are two types of visas: immigrant visas and nonimmigrant visas (NIVs). Immigrant visas or more commonly “green cards”, allow people to work in the country, pay U.S. taxes, benefit from U.S. programs and institutions, and eventually apply for naturalization and citizenry. Nonimmigrant visas are issued to individuals wishing to only visit the country for a short time; a typical NIV is valid for ten years but allows stays of only 6 months before the person must return to their country for another 6 months before being eligible to again enter the United States.

Federal immigration law allows for denial of visas status and/or revocation of both green cards and NIVs depending on circumstances. For example, certain individuals may be “inadmissible” to the U.S. such as people with a prior history of immigration viloations, convictions for certain “aggravated felonies” such as robbery and assault, domestic violence, national security issues, and “health-related grounds”. While green cards are less susceptible to revocation, the Department of State has the authority to revoke a NIV at any time, according to their discretion.

How does a Mercer County DUI charge effect your Immigrant status?

According to the Supreme Court’s 2004 decision in Leocal v. Ashcroft, a DUI/DWI is not considered a “crime of violence”. This means that it does not fall under the category of an aggravated felony necessary to revoke an immigrant visa. However, this is not true of NIVs.

The Department of Homeland Security has the discretion to revoke a NIV based on a DUI/DWI arrest and/or conviction. This includes refusal to submit to a breath test.  It also has the authority to deny visa status to applicants based on a history of alcohol abuse. This is considered part of the “health-related” grounds provision when considering whether to give visa status or not, as someone with a history of alcohol abuse may pose a risk to the health, property, and safety of others.

A nonimmigrant visa holder whose visa has been revoked for any reason must present themselves to a Department of State official. They are given the opportunity to offer evidence as to why they should be allowed to stay, but the ultimate decision falls to the discretion of DOS officers.

Contact an Experienced DUI/DWI Lawyer with Offices in Trenton and Pennington NJ

A DUI/DWI charge in New Jersey can have serious consequences, regardless of your status as a citizen, immigrant, or visitor to the country. Furthermore, prosecutors are under pressure to obtain strong convictions, it is highly recommended that you have an attorney with experience working in New Jersey’s court system, and fully understands your rights and options when going through the municipal court process.

The attorneys at Kamensky Cohen & Riechelson know how to fight your driving under the influence charges and help you avoid the most severe penalties. We will closely examine the evidence in your case and formulate an effective strategy to combat your charges. We will also hold the prosecution to the highest standards when it comes to proving necessary elements of the case. Contact us today to discuss your case over the phone or to schedule an appointment at our offices in Trenton or Pennington.