Criminal Defense

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CRIMINAL DEFENSE:
The Law Office of Michael A. Grasso, Esq., LLC focuses its services on Criminal Defense, as it is the bedrock of which our reputation has been built. As a former law enforcement officer for the federal government Mr. Grasso knows exactly what level of diligence is necessary to counter investigate your particular prosecution. In gauging the type of approach your defense calls for your case is broken down into three crucial stages by examining the following:

1.The Reasonable Suspicion and Probable Cause necessary to encounter you, your motor vehicle, or your premises;
2.The Search and Seizure of your person, motor vehicle or premises;
3.The Credibility, Veracity and Admissibility of all Witnesses and Evidence to be used against you at trial.

The criminal procedure may be the most constitutionally invasive experience you may endure in your lifetime. That is why choosing the right attorney is the most important decision you will make during this process.
It is most important to understand the tracking of a criminal procdure in the Superior Court of New Jersey. The following demonstrates a breakdown of how the system operates:

Formal Criminal Complaint: This is where an investigation is in process and you have been charged with violating the Criminal Code of New Jersey (Section 2C). The service of process for a formal criminal complaint may take anywhere from a few minutes (i.e. a disorderly persons offense) to over a year’s time (i.e. due to the complexity and number of witnesses that must be interviewed by the county prosecutor or attorney general’s office). In any event, you will be served with the complaint (commonly known as a green sheet) and should provide this document along with your bail release form to your attorney immediately. An arrest may or may not occur conditioned upon the severity and seriousness of the case. Nonetheless, you will be served after you are arrested by a law enforcement agency or through the regular mailing system.

Motions: Motions may be filed with the criminal case management office of the Superior Court of New Jersey at any time after a formal criminal complaint has been served upon you. Regardless, whether your matter has been presented to grand jury or you are at the case status conference (csc) or trial phase of your procedure, motions may be heard to protect your legal interests by requesting the court to suppress the evidence against you or dismiss your matter outright. The further along you are in your procedure the more likely these motions will be conferenced with the court thus indicating to all parties the likelihood of the continuation of your prosecution. If a motion is denied your attorney may file an Interlocutory Appeal and request a stay on your present prosecution or sentencing after weighing out the potential length and complexity of your matter.

Pre-Indictment Conference (PIC): This is a procedure that was recently added to the criminal case tracking system within our county level courts so as to allocate defendants many options prior to their case being presented to a grand jury (a group of 23 peers who determine whether probable cause exists for an indictment to be handed down against you). Your attorney will have the first available opportunity to examine your police report (narrative) as well as all supporting evidence that will be used to support your prosecution. You may be eligible for the following: Dismissal with Prejudice (outright dismissal); Not Guilty Plea with application to Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI); Guilty Plea to a lesser offense. PTI is a diversionary program offered by the county prosecutor’s office as a clean way of disposing your case as it is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Eligibility for Expungement is six (6) months after successful termination of PTI; two (2) years for municipal ordinances; Five (5) years for Petty Disorderly Persons offense (PDP) or Disorderly Persons Offense (DP); Ten (10) years for any indictable offense (i.e. 4th Degree; 3rd Degree; and some 2nd Degree). Please know the grading of your offense may prohibit you from ever expunging your criminal case history (CCH). Also, the ten (10) year rule on expunging an indictable offense has now been relaxed and courts review same on a sliding scale commensurate to your specific case history.

Arraignment/Case Status Conference: This is the first significant stage of your representation in the event your case does not qualify for PIC or in the alternative you decline any offers at PIC. Your attorney will enter a Not Guilty Plea on your behalf, waive a formal reading of your indictment onto the record, apprise the court as to the status of any outstanding discovery and serve you with your next court date. It is also an excellent opportunity to dispose a case in the event after due inspection, the state’s proofs would not support a substantive prosecution against you at trial.

Case Status Conference (CSC): This is where your case is discussed in a confidential setting, such as a judge’s chambers, including but not limited to the involvement of the following figureheads: your defense counsel, assistant prosecutor or deputy attorney general, any probation or parole officers, team leader to judge, and judge. The goal of this meeting is to determine whether your case will go to plea cut-off or be disposed by virtue of a dismissal or plea to a lesser offense. CSC may be given several adjournments as to allow both sides to gather the relevant proofs necessary to obtain a favorable plea or proceed to plea cut off. You, the client are in charge of directing your attorney whether to proceed to trial after you have been advised of all options and relevant risks versus rewards.

Plea Cut Off: All options have been exhausted and no agreement exists between your attorney and the state. Papers are then entered onto the record indicating all legal motions to be moved upon before the court, the number of witnesses and the expected length of trial. All deals come off the table at this stage of the proceeding.

Jury Trial: Voi Dire in French means “quest for truth”. The first proceeding at trial is selecting a jury panel (voi dire) from a group of randomly selected citizens “the array”. Once a jury has been selected the state will commence with its case in chief (state’s contentions); the defense is permitted to cross examine all state’s witnesses; the state rests; the defense proceeds with its case in chief (defense contentions); the state is permitted its cross examination; the defense rests; the state closes; the defense closes; the state may be afforded a second closing as the burden of proof (beyond a reasonable doubt) is on it; the jury is excused to deliberate; the jury, once ready, renders its verdict; the judge schedules sentencing if defendant has been found guilty of one of the counts of indictment. Any motion may be moved upon during your trial in the event a respective issue and opportunity to do so avails.

Sentencing: Prior to the judge sentencing a defendant, a pre-sentence investigation report is authored. Your assigned pre-sentencing officer interviews you to gather further data to be presented to the court in determining what sentence is most appropriate for you. During the sentencing hearing the state will emphasize aggravating factors and the defense mitigating. The judge shall give weight to both sides and render a sentencing decision. At this point a Judgment of Conviction is drafted by the administrative body of the court to memorialize the finality of your case.

Appeal: All defendants sentenced by The Superior Court of New Jersey will have forty five (45) days to appeal the court’s decision; twenty (20) days for municipal court. Your Appeal is a meticulous process as it is being received and reviewed by The Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey. It is suggested that you hire an experienced counsel who is well versed in the procedure and standard of review if and when proceeding with this application as you only have one opportunity to succeed in its filing as time and accuracy are of the essence. Municipal Court Appeals are less cumbersome and are filed and heard before the Criminal Part of the Superior Court of New Jersey.

Post Conviction Relief: In the event you believe their exists an ineffective representation on behalf of your defense attorney and/or the court proceeded in error and a period not exceeding five (5) years has passed, you are able to file a Post Conviction Relief (PCR) Application and thus request relief in the form of a dismissal or remand with further instruction. In the event the statute of limitations has tolled you may then still be eligible in the event you can proof excusable neglect and show good cause for its lateness. Again, seek competent guidance before proceeding with this option.

Criminal Defense FAQ:

The following are some answers to the most frequently asked questions when a stop, arrest and prosecution is under way:
Q: What do I say or do at the time of my motor vehicle stop or initial interrogation?

A: Typically at the onset of a law enforcement interrogation you are most likely temporarily
detained, such as a motor vehicle stop, and are not free to leave or go about your
business. As such, a Miranda warning does not necessarily need to be elicited during this
initial line of questioning as it is considered a field inquiry. Accordingly it is recommended
that you answer the field questions without incriminating yourself. There is an obligation
for you to answer these basic questions (i.e. where are you coming from?, did you
consume any alcoholic beverages this evening?, where are you heading?) otherwise the
officer maintains the discretion to skip this line of questioning, outright arrest you and
then may even supplement the state’s charges against you to further include an
obstruction of the administration of the law. So please bear in mind, you are not
constitutionally permitted to remain 100% silent, as our Fifth Amendment only triggers
once the arrest and interrogation has commenced. Simply put, cooperate on a basic
level, be respectful, do not incriminate yourself by attempting to “explain your situation”
and once an arrest commences (i.e. the temporary detainment of you and your property
becomes permanent) then you are in a position where you do not have to say anything
as the “field inquiry” has graduated to an “interrogation”.

Q. What do I say or do after I have been arrested?

A. Do not say or do anything. Do not attempt to explain yourself to the authorities as trickery
is constitutionally permitted by all law enforcement. Utilize your phone contact and seek
professional advisement immediately from a seasoned criminal defense attorney.

Q. What is a “No Bail” and what are my options?

A: A “No Bail” means that you can neither post bail nor hire a bail bondsman to post bail for
you. Your only effective option is to have an attorney file and argue a Notice of Motion to
Modify No Bail status before the court.

Q: What is “Bail with or without 10%”?

A: Bail with 10% means you or your bail bondsman may produce 10% of the total bail
amount to the court as condition to your release. Likewise, a no 10% option means you
must produce the entire amount for same to occur.

Q: What is a “property bond”?

A: This is where you or your family is permitted to bond real property to satisfy the bail
amount (typically when no 10% option exists). A legitimate appraisal of present market
value must be proven to the reviewing judge in order for you to prevail on this application.

Q: What is a “source hearing”?

A: In the event a large amount of money is necessary to be produced to the court for a
subject’s release the judge may require a source hearing. The onus is on the defense to
prove to the state that the money used to bail our defendant is derived from a legally
accountable source.

Q: Once my property has been seized at the time of my arrest when can I get it back?

A: Typically all seized property is only released after prosecution and sentencing has
occurred. However, small items not necessary for the state’s prosecution may be
returned to you as soon as your attorney can arrange for an officer to make this
transaction. Legal property such as a motor vehicle directly connected to a crime may
only be returned after sentence or become the subject of a civil forfeiture litigation as it
becomes state property when in connection with criminal wrongdoing. Naturally any
contraband or CDS cannot be returned at any time as it is illegal to possess in the first
place.

Q: What is a “Motion to Sever”?

A: Your attorney will make application to the court in the event your case involves codefendants.
The reasoning for this is based upon the fact that these individuals may be
used by the state to testify against you and vice versa.

Q: What is a “Motion to Suppress”?

A: This motion challenges the constitutionality of how the law came into contact with you
(i.e. it calls the court’s attention to examine how your officer encountered you in person or
the reason for your motor vehicle stop, or entry onto or into your premises). In the event
your attorney succeeds in proving to the court your “search and seizure” was illegal all
evidence in possession of the state is deemed “fruit of the poisonous tree” and the entire
case will be dismissed.

DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent counsel for advice on any legal matter.


 

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