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April 2012 Archives

NJ anti-corruption cases encounter problems

The effort to combat perceived corruption among public officials has developed some problems. And several defendants have been acquitted, although their lives are in tatters after lengthy legal battles in federal court. The sting operation, initiated by Gov. Chris Christie when he was U.S. attorney in New Jersey, has created problems for the now-governor as well, who faces allegations that he steered the anti-corruption effort away from Republican officials who later helped him win the gubernatorial election.

Corrupt NYPD cop brought down after NJ robbery

In the past two years, the New York Police Department has been under a spotlight. Prosecutors have charged officers with corruption that included planting evidence in drug crime investigations, illegal gun running, holding up drug dealers, and fixing traffic tickets on a routine basis. The department has been under scrutiny for its out-of-town surveillance of mosques as part of its anti-terrorism, with critics charging that these operations constituted civil rights violations.

Does a new child protection bill actually help abusers?

A piece of New Jersey legislation purported to protect children may do exactly the opposite. The Child Protection Act (CPA) of 2012 is being criticized by victim advocates as actually protecting sex crime perpetrators and suspects. Some have argued that the bill actually detracts from another, stronger, bill that is also making its way through the legislative process.

If it seems too good to be true, it probably is

A New Castle, Pennsylvania, man looking for a roommate got caught up in an Internet fraud scam and found himself in jail. The scam victim, Scott Tomasello, thought his roommate search was over when a woman calling herself Jessica responded to his online ad. She sent a check for even more than he had asked for, and told him simply to return any money that was not used for the first month's rent and deposit. Tomasello deposited the check and congratulated himself on being so lucky.

Are Fourth Amendment Rights Under Siege?

A recent 5-4 Supreme Court decision makes it legal for prison staff to strip-search anyone entering the facility. Many view this as a significant reduction of fourth-amendment rights that protect Americans against unreasonable searches and seizures. This ruling settled a New Jersey case, Florence v. County of Burlington. The plaintiff, Albert W. Florence, was forced to submit to strip searches, including exposure of body cavities, after he was arrested for an unpaid fine.

Supreme Court ruling improves rights of defendants

A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision gave defendants a small gift. After a ruling last week, defendants now have a constitutional right to effective legal representation during plea bargain negotiations in criminal cases from assault to investment fraud. The ruling was 5-to-4 in two decisions that gave judges more discretion and authority.

Police can track you through your cell phone

Although the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in January that police cannot use GPS locator systems to track suspects, it has not directly addressed the issue of cellphones as tracking devices in law enforcement. Many law enforcement agencies use cellphones, some of which have GPS systems, to follow individuals suspected of drug crimes and other criminal behavior. The degree to which this behavior violates a suspect's Fourth Amendment rights will almost certainly be the subject of future court decisions.

Man charged with sexual assault not on registry

A recent arrest illustrates the dangers of relying too heavily on sex crime registration laws such as New Jersey's Megan's Law. A 24-year-old man was charged with the sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl on March 20, and was held in the Mercer County Jail on $100,000 full cash bond. He also faces charges of criminal sexual contact, luring and enticing a child and endangering the welfare of a child.

Don't Take That Ice -- It May Cost You

Sometimes you just have to wonder whether the police and the criminal justice system have enough to do. A student at Brookdale Community College in Middletown, New Jersey, was issued a ticket for municipal court. His crime: taking a cup of ice from the cafeteria line.

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