chklt_crim_100: Criminal Justice

[L]awyers in criminal courts are necessities, not luxuries. The right of one charged with crime to counsel may not be deemed fundamental and essential to fair trials in some countries, but it is in ours.

— Justice Hugo Black, Gideon v. Wainwright

The rights guaranteed to the accused, defendants, offenders and prisoners are fundamental political rights that protect all Americans from governmental abuse of power. These rights include the guarantee against unreasonable search and seizure, the right to reasonable bail, the right to due process of law and the right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. They are indispensable to a free society.

Legal Cases

  • State v. Matthew Graham
    Defendant denied indigency status for reasons unrelated to his economic status.
  • State v. Skinner
    Rap lyrics are a form of artistic expression that are protected under the First Amendment and the New Jersey Constitution and trial court judges should adopt guidelines to guide courts when considering whether or not to admit fictional, artistic expression as evidence.
  • State v. Giuseppe Tedesco
    Can a defendant be ordered to appear at his sentencing hearing?
  • State v. Kenneth Verpent
    Police should obtain a warrant to perform a urine drug test on a suspect.
  • State v. Todd Dorcelus
    Defendant denied a public defender
  • State v. Shaffona Morgan
    Judge allows jury to take home jury instructions, resulting in a communication with the jury where counsel is not present.
  • Ron Mills v. Department of Treasury
    Wrongfully convicted individuals are denied compensation because of guilty plea.
  • State v. Jahnell Weaver
    Courts should establish rules and procedures that implement the right to a speedy trial.
  • State v. Michael Cahill
    Right to a speedy trial.
  • State v. Thomas Earls
    Police requested and received information regarding defendant’s whereabouts from his cell phone provider.

Legislative Efforts

  • Bail System Reform
    Moves New Jersey’s bail system to a risk-based one and away from a wealth-based system that results in thousands of people facing long pre-trial jail sentences due to inability to afford bail. A system based on actual risk to the community—not ability to pay—better protects public safety, reduces jail overcrowding, keeps families together, and saves taxpayer resources.
  • Ending Prison-Based Gerrymandering
    Requires that the incarcerated persons be counted at their last known address before prison for political redistricting purposes, not the location where they are confined.
  • Sex Offender Banishment Ordinances
    Permits municipalities to enact ordinances preventing individuals convicted of certain sex offenses from living within 500 feet of a school, child-care center, or playground.
  • DNA Collection for Low-Level Offenses
    Requires law enforcement to collect DNA samples from adults and juveniles convicted of certain non-criminal disorderly person offenses.
  • “Ban the Box”
    Prohibits employers from conducting a criminal history inquiry of a job applicant until after a conditional offer
  • Marijuana Decriminalization
    Removes possession of 50 grams or less of marijuana from the list of disorderly persons offenses and creates a $50 civil penalty for such possession.
  • Bail System Reform
    Moves New Jersey’s bail system to a risk-based one and away from a wealth-based system.

Other Content

Op-Eds

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