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Newark Legal Issues Blog

Newark, New Jersey Criminal Defense Legal Blog

Judges and civil rights groups call for bail and fines reform

Incarceration rates in New Jersey and around the country are among the highest in the world, but not all jail inmates are behind bars because they committed a crime. Many indigent criminal defendants are sent to jail before their trials even begin because they cannot afford to post bail, and thousands more find themselves behind bars because of outstanding traffic tickets or unpaid fines.

Civil rights groups have called the current system a war on the poor, but implementing reform is proving difficult because many municipalities have grown reliant on the revenue generated by fines and fees. The Supreme Court ruled in 1983 that incarcerating individuals who are too poor to pay fines violates the U.S. Constitution, but the situation persists. Fees and fines are used to fund the court systems in many parts of the country, and judges in some states are required to explain themselves in writing when they are waived.

Most common types of car accident injuries

Regardless of the circumstances surrounding a car accident, your health should take top priority. The sooner you pinpoint your injuries, the sooner you can receive treatment. Subsequently, you're putting yourself on the path to making a full recovery.

You can suffer many types of injuries in a car accident, with these among the most common:

  • Burns and abrasions: These are most common in accidents in which you're thrown around the cabin of your vehicle or onto the pavement. Also, in the event that your vehicle catches fire, burns are a major concern.
  • Broken bones: Every bone in your body is susceptible to breaks and fractures in a motor vehicle accident. From your feet all the way up to your skull, your bones are at risk.
  • Head injuries: These are among the most serious injuries, as they can impact your life now and in the future. Common types of head injuries include concussion, fractured skull and bleeding on the brain.
  • Neck and back injuries: The most serious neck and back injury is a fracture, as this can result in temporary or permanent paralysis. However, there are other types of injuries that fit into this category, such as whiplash.
  • Chest injuries: These often occur when your chest hits the steering wheel or from the force of the airbag deploying. Depending on the amount of force, broken bones and cardiac arrest are possible.

Among US holidays, July Fourth sees most DUI fatalities

Between 2010 and 2017, a total of 1,192 people died in drunk driving crashes on the Fourth of July. This is according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Fatality Analysis Reporting System. This makes Independence Day the deadliest of the major U.S. holidays for DUI fatalities. New Jersey residents should know that Memorial Day came in second with 1,105 deaths during that same eight-year span.

The DUI fatality rate comes to 42.4 per day for Independence Day. For a comparable summer day, the fatality rate is closer to 26.1. During the Fourth of July weekend in 2017, there were 184 drunk driving crash deaths. Taking an equivalent period of four to five days in summer, the average number of fatalities came to 117.

Study finds high number of police force incidents in New Jersey

New Jersey is not properly tracking incidents of police force, bad policies and abusive officers, according to a new investigation by NJ Advance Media. The 16-month investigation resulted in "The Force Report," which was published on NJ.com in June.

Even though state officials announced plans for a centralized police force tracking system almost 20 years ago, there is still no statewide tracking system in place. In addition, police departments undergo little state oversight and have been issued no standard practices to follow. In an attempt to obtain accurate data on police force incidents, researchers filed 506 public records requests and received reports on over 72,500 use-of-force incidents involving officers from all New Jersey municipal police departments and the State Police between 2012 and 2016.

Summer driving can be risky for teens

New Jersey parents may be concerned about the safety of their teens driving during the summer months. With summer comes a break from school and a range of new activities that may prompt teens to drive more frequently. Jobs, internships, camps, parties and other summer activities often require teens to transport themselves, so they may find themselves driving much more frequently than they do during the school year. In addition, restrictions like curfews are often loosened during the summer, so teens may be more likely to drive at night.

While summer may not officially begin until late June, Memorial Day has long been considered the unofficial launch of the season that ends informally on Labor Day. The 100-day period between these holidays is associated with a range of injuries from a variety of causes, including motor vehicle accidents. Of course, car crashes aren't the only cause of summertime injuries; many warm-weather activities carry with them some risk. Still, they are a significant contributor to the busy schedules of emergency personnel during the summer months.

Cars that are most likely to cause accidents

In 2017, 37,133 people died in automobile accidents on roads in New Jersey and throughout the United States. This is according to data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Generally speaking, smaller cars are more likely to be involved in an accident that results in injury or death. The higher fatality rates among smaller vehicles is a result of basic physics. In most cases, larger cars can withstand an impact better than smaller ones can.

Sports cars may also be more likely to be involved in an accident because people tend to drive them in a more aggressive manner. Vehicles that had higher accident rates were also the ones that had few safety features or otherwise scored poorly on crash tests. Among vehicles that had the highest accident rate were the Mitsubishi Mirage, Chevrolet Corvette and the Honda Fit. Data was taken from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System and was used only to analyze vehicles from model years 2013 through 2017.

The right DUI defense strategy can help you avoid trouble

If you're charged with driving under the influence of alcohol in New Jersey, it won't be long before your day in court arrives. As nervous as you may be, it's important to keep one thing in mind: a DUI charge doesn't always result in a conviction.

The best way to avoid a conviction is to implement the right DUI defense strategy. Fortunately, there are several of these to consider:

  • Improper stop: Police must have probable cause for stopping your vehicle. If you can prove that the officer didn't have cause, you're in better position to win your case.
  • Inaccurate field sobriety test: Just because an officer administers a field sobriety test doesn't mean they'll do so in an accurate manner. For example, the officer may neglect to explain the test, which results in your failure.
  • Inaccurate Breathalyzer test: Often used by police to determine your blood alcohol level, a Breathalyzer test is not always 100 percent accurate. If the officer doesn't know how to use the equipment, it could result in a false reading. The same holds true if the equipment hasn't been properly maintained.
  • Rising blood alcohol level: A good portion of time may elapse before being pulled over and the administration of a breath test. During this time, your blood alcohol level can rise. This may allow you to argue that your blood alcohol level was under the legal limit at the time you were driving.
  • Evidence tampering: This is typically associated with questions about the handling of blood or urine testing. Any type of mishandling can result in an inaccurate reading.

Alcohol breath test false positives possible on ketogenic diet

Police officers in New Jersey often rely on the results of breath tests to determine the intoxication of drivers during traffic stops. Results that show a high blood alcohol concentration typically provide grounds for a DUI arrest on top of observations made by a police officer. Evidence has emerged, however, that breath test equipment could be prone to producing a false positive for people following a ketogenic diet.

This diet promotes ketosis within the body, which involves the liver processing fat into fuel. Acetone results from this process, and the substance can appear in exhalations as isopropyl alcohol. Police equipment is made to measure ethanol alcohol to detect drinking, but the breath analyzer might measure isopropyl alcohol by mistake.

Study: Distracted drivers are a threat to first responders

Another distracted driving study, this time conducted by the National Safety Council in association with the Emergency Responder Safety Institute, has revealed that drivers in New Jersey and around the country are quick to criticize others for behavior they regularly engage in themselves. While 89 percent of the motorists surveyed said distracted drivers pose a major threat to the safety of first responders, a worrying 71 percent of them admitted to researchers that they slow down to take photographs or shoot videos of traffic stops and accident scenes.

When asked what they did with the images or videos, 60 percent of the respondents said that they post them on social media and 66 percent told researchers that they attach them to emails. Most worrying of all, the drivers surveyed admitted that they do not even pull over to the side of the road before to doing this. It may not be surprising, then, that 16 percent of the respondents admitted that they had struck or come close to striking a paramedic, firefighter, or police officer.

More facial recognition software leads to more privacy concerns

New Jersey residents who have privacy concerns in this heavily digital world may have another reason to worry as facial recognition software is being used more often. Stores can use the technology to capture the faces of patrons without their knowledge or consent. Once identified by recognition software as a threat, it could be hard to clear one's name.

The privacy concerns associated with recording faces and keeping data from these recordings is particularly troubling because there are currently no regulations to govern the use of facial recognition technology. There is no guarantee store employees know how to properly use the data generated, and there is no standard for how accurate the technology needs to be.

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