[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. Collado
    Case asking the court to apply the exclusionary rule to violations of the “knock-and-announce” requirement in search warrants.
  • State v. Myers, State v. Nyema
    Police stopped a car based on a vague race-based description of people who committed a robbery. Our amicus brief on behalf of clergy detailed the harm caused by such stops and urged to Court to create a rule that would prohibit them.
  • State v. Bailey
    Amicus brief addressing whether the retroactive application of the newly enacted crime-fraud exception to the marital communications privilege violates the ex post facto clauses of the federal and state constitutions.
  • State v. Andujar
    In this novel case, the ACLU-NJ argued that the State’s unlawful and racial use of its law enforcement power against a qualified Black potential juror, F.G., by running a criminal background check on him and later having him arrested from the courthouse on a municipal warrant as a replacement for having to show cause for dismissal or using preemptory challenges resulted in an unfair trial. The State’s abuse of its law enforcement power deprived a criminal defendant of equal protection and his right to trial by an impartial jury, and a New Jerseyan of his right to serve as a juror.
  • Harris v. Newark
    The ACLU-NJ joined this case as amicus on the sole issue of whether a denial of qualified immunity to defendant law enforcement as part of a summary judgment motion is appealable on an interlocutory basis in New Jersey state court.
  • Bland & Bland v. Del Mauro, Et Al.
    An appeal seeking to review and reverse an award of qualified immunity to defendant police officers on a summary judgment motion, in an action brought by the plaintiff under the New Jersey Civil Rights Act, where the facts of the police shooting are in dispute.
  • Sonia Doe v. NJ Department of Corrections
    Challenge under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination and New Jersey Constitution to the Department of Corrections' mistreatment of a woman because she is transgender, including housing her for over a year and a half in men’s prisons.
  • State v. Hokum Brown
    Amicus brief arguing that defendants, who were sentenced for underlying sex offenses when failure to register under Megan’s Law was a fourth-degree offense, cannot subsequently be charged with third-degree failure to register under the 2007 amendment to Megan’s Law.
  • State v. Zakariyya Ahmad
    Amicus brief that addresses whether a defendant was in custody for the purposes of Miranda v. Arizona?
  • State v. Romero
    Amicus brief addressing whether the practical availability of parole should be considered when evaluating whether a sentence is the functional equivalent of life without parole.

Legislative Efforts

  • Marijuana Legalization
    Legalizes possession and personal use of small amounts of Marijuana for persons age 21 and over.
  • Medical Parole Expansion
    Expands eligibility of medical parole to prisoners determined to be permanently incapable for performing basic daily functions of life and in need of 24-hour medical attention; creates presumption of release; requires medical parolees be provided assistance in applying for Medicaid upon release; requires Parole board to collect data on medical parole grants and denials.
  • Expungement Reform
    Reduces waiting period for eligibility for expungement of certain offenses; provides for automatic expungement of charges that did not result in conviction, as well as successful drug court graduates; expands eligibility of multiple offense expungement to one indictable offense and two disorderly persons offenses.
  • Comprehensive Juvenile Justice Reform
    Raises the minimum age for waivers from 14 to 15; eliminates some less serious crimes from the list of offenses subject to waiver; creates presumption that waived juveniles remain housed with juveniles until age 21; provides right to counsel and enhances due process protections before juveniles can be transferred from juvenile detention centers to adult prisons; eliminates use of solitary confinement except to protect health, safety, or the operation of a facility; mandates data collection and public reporting regarding the use of waiver and solitary confinement.
  • Ending Overuse of Solitary Confinement
    Prohibits Department of Corrections from housing in solitary confinement people under 22, people with mental illnesses, people with developmental disabilities, and other vulnerable populations. Limits, except in emergency situations, the use of solitary confinement for other prisoners to 15 consecutive days or 20 days in any 60 day period. Mandates data collection regarding the use of solitary confinement.
  • Limits on Militarization of Police – Local Approval
    Requires local unit approval of applications for participation in federal 1033 program.
  • Limits on Militarization of Police – AG Oversight and Reporting
    equires AG oversight of transfer of federal surplus military equipment to local law enforcement agencies; establishes review and reporting requirement.
  • 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, including shoplifting and marijuana possession. This type of expansive collection will lead to massive government databases of New Jerseyans’ DNA, raising enormous privacy and due process concerns.
  • Ban the Box
    Prohibits large employers in most fields from conducting a criminal history inquiry of a job applicant until after a first interview
  • 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.

Other Content

Op-Eds

Archives

Can't find what you are looking for? Look in our Criminal Justice Archives.

Stay Informed

Join the Action Alert e-mail list to stay informed about current issues and campaigns, upcoming events, and how you can get more involved in the fight to protect and expand civil liberties.

ACLU of New Jersey is part of a
network of affiliates

Learn more about ACLU National

secret