A Police Search of a Car’s Trunks and Other Obscure Areas Can be a Violation of a Person’s Rights in New Jersey

Under the New Jersey Supreme Court decision, State v. Witt  223 NJ 409 (2015), if a police officer detects the odor of marijuana, he is legally able to search the driver’s vehicle without a warrant. Since there were limited boundaries or guidelines set in place, police officers were using State v. Witt to search throughout motor vehicles, including the trunk. Recently, an Appellate Division case limited the parameters of warrantless searches conducted in motor vehicles. The case, State v. Maurice Houston, Docket No. A-0023-17T3 (2017), restricted the discretion police officers have in conducting motor vehicle searches, as maintained in State v. Witt, the seminal serach of a motor vehicle case in New Jersey. In State v. Houston, the Court held that the search exceeded parameters and became intrusive once the officers started searching in obscure places in the defendant’s motor vehicle. Continue reading

A Recent Change in Strategy Used to Fight Drug Possession Cases

Laboratory reports are an essential element in drug related Court matters. In order for the State to prove their case, the State must have the drugs seized tested in a laboratory and provide those results to the defense. The laboratory results identify if the substance tested is in fact a CDS (controlled dangerous substance). Recently New Jersey laboratories where CDS is tested, are overwhelmed and understaffed, and the system has become backlogged. As a result, many individuals Court dates have been adjourned by the Courts for several months after the initial arrest, due to the delay in the State obtaining the required lab results. Being that the backlog has had a significant effect on Municipal and Superior Courts; the Office of the Attorney General has announced that the New Jersey State Police are taking steps in order to tackle this issue. The State Police Office of Forensic Science is aiming to hire many more laboratory scientists. These technicians will be required to undergo rigorous training in order to accurately perform their duties. The hiring process is expected to take place this month and into early 2018. Doing so should improve the efficiency rate in which the State Police provides the defense with the laboratory results of tested substances. Continue reading

We Do and We Will
How We Represent Drug Addicted Clients 

Eric Morrell, a criminal defense attorney, is known for being a “Fighter Not A Hand-Shaker.” Our offices offer our clients more than just legal advice and physical representation in court. Eric believes that a client’s recovery process is a very important factor in his representation. Our offices want our clients to succeed in life after we represent them and again become a strong contribution to their community and family.  Many clients’ drug addiction stems from psychological issues they are dealing with day to day.  Some use drugs to self-medicate.  Depending on the circumstances and charges, Mr. Morrell may make recommendations, including but not limited to, a recommendation that our clients treat with a psychologist or licensed social worker. It may also be recommended that they attend an inpatient or outpatient drug rehabilitation program, Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous, or any other program for the purposes of enhancing our law office’s effectiveness of their legal representation. Eric hopes to not only represent his clients to the best of his ability, but to aid in their recovery process as well.  It is expected that the client will make a bonafide good-faith effort to comply with these recommendations, as outline in his retainer agreements. He asks that our clients obtain, and provide our offices with any and all reports, certification, and other documentation demonstrating their participation. These reports are used in their legal defense, and are presented to both the Prosecutor and Judge. Looking further than just Court, this is often the first stepping stone in helping our clients. Continue reading

Starting Your Career?
Clear Your Criminal History

Having a criminal arrest or charge on your record, especially when seeking employment, can limit opportunities for advancement in the future. Criminal charges are a matter of public record, which can appear on the internet and all platforms of social media. As a result, employers are easily able to access your criminal history, and therefore may prematurely reject your application. Even if your charges have been dismissed, the original arrest will still appear on background checks.  An expungement allows the Court to seal your prior criminal history, making it unavailable to employers and agencies that perform background checks through the State or Federal repository. The court rules in NJ mandate a waiting period before individuals become eligible for an expungement. Generally, if you are convicted of a eligible Indicatable Offense, the waiting period is ten (10) years. For a Disorderly Persons offense or a Petty Disorderly Persons Offense, the waiting period is five (5) years. Continue reading

How to Handle IDRC Non-Compliance Matters After Pleading to a DWI in New Jersey

In the state of New Jersey, a program titled the Intoxicated Driving Resource Center (IDRC), is the required program for anyone that pleads guilty to a DWI. The program requires mandatory Alcohol and Highway Safety Education courses that are typically 12 to 48 hours for first offenders. In addition to the mandatory courses, IDRC conducts an evaluation on each individual in order to determine the extent of their alcohol or drug dependency and whether or not treatment is necessary. If treatment is in fact necessary then the completion of a 16-week minimum treatment plan is mandatory. The assigned treatment plan can be either an outpatient treatment program or inpatient program. Both programs include intensive drug/alcohol counseling in the form of self-help groups, family treatment centers, and individual or group counseling. Throughout the whole process, IDRC monitors and reports on people’s program compliance to the municipal courts. The center also makes recommendations regarding license suspensions or restorations to the Motor Vehicle Commission. For this reason, it is very important for New Jersey drivers to be in compliance with the program. Continue reading

Arrested at “The Hunt”?
What To Do Next

The Far Hills Steeplechase will take place this year on October 21, 2017. “The Hunt” as it is called has made a name for itself in the last few years due to the drunken debauchery that occurs at the yearly horserace. The event, which is intended as a horse race, has evolved into an exciting event to pre-game for many college and high school aged students. People come from all over New Jersey, and even out-of-state from New York and Pennsylvania to enjoy the event. While it is a fun event that many look forward to, some may not consider the after effects of their fun. Police seem to be cracking down on this event with arrest rates going up annually. In most recent years arrests have been made due to underage drinking, drug possession, disorderly conduct, public urination, simple assault, and DWIs. While the degree of severity of these cases may seem to range it is always in one’s best interest to seek legal counsel no matter the severity of the matter. Continue reading

New Jersey Law Requiring Enforcement Agencies to Update Their Social
Media Accounts Regarding Acquittals or Dismissals

Governor Chris Christie signed a New Jersey bill requiring the Attorney General and the county’s prosecutor’s office to remove information or update public statements from the internet after the acquittal of a prosecuted individual. The new law known as A1945, will take effect on September 1st, 2017. Press releases from the Office of the Attorney General website must be updated to state the charges against a particular individual have been dropped, or the information posted must be removed all together. Information concerning the indictments and prosecutions of individuals who were later acquitted or had charges dismissed must be removed from each county’s respective website. The Attorney General must also inform the public that the indicted individual was acquitted of the charges or that the charges were dismissed. Continue reading

New Jersey Bail Reform Act

Bail as we know it in New Jersey is going to change starting in January of 2017. The Pretrial Services Program, abbreviated PSP, aims to assure court appearance of a defendant, and on a larger scale, to limit the potential for obstruction of the criminal justice system in the state of New Jersey. PSP is a temporary detention of those committed to county jail. During the detention, the program prepares a risk assessment of the defendant, containing recommendations directing the conditions of the defendant’s release from jail. A computerized risk assessment tool will be used by police to determine whether the defendant is a low, moderate, or high risk to the community and the criminal justice system. A numerical score will be assigned to the defendant, indicating which of the three risk levels to which the defendant corresponds. As used in the decision for determining a bail amount currently, a suspect’s criminal record will also be considered in risk assessment. The decision for pretrial release is required to be made no later than 48 hours after the defendant is committed to jail.

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Drug Evaluation & Classification Programs

“The drug recognition expert procedure is a systematic and standardized method of examining a suspect to determine: 1) Whether the suspect is impaired; and if so, 2) Whether the impairment related to drugs or medical condition; and if drugs, 3) The category or combination of categories of drugs that are the likely cause of impairment” (IV-3, HS 172A R01/10). “It is a systematic process because it is based on a complete set of observable signs and symptoms that are known to be reliable indicators of drug impairment. A Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) never reaches a conclusion based on any one element of the evaluation, but instead on the totality of facts that emerge” (IV-3, HS 172A R01/10). “The evaluation is standardized because DRE officers perform it the same way every time. Continue reading