Pusillanimity is the New Black

Recently I blogged about bullying. And today I saw this on Twitter:

When I first heard about anti-bullying, the literal term and the concept reeked of ambiguity. Additionally, it appeared to me that many people were jumping on yet another bandwagon.

I said previously, and it is worth repeating, I am not pro-bullying. Without intending to engage in the self-aggrandizing practice of quoting oneself--does that seem self-serving and insincere?--as a criminal and juvenile defense attorney, I'm the one who defends the one who won the fight.

Please read Elie Mystal's ATL op-ed on this. Are these unintended consequences? Perhaps, but they certainly were not unforeseeable.

Take Yer Anti-Bullying Campaign . . . And Shove It!

I could say I have had mixed feelings about anti-bullying. But honestly, it's been a mixture of about 98 parts anti-anti-bullying (similar to the anti-anti- spirit of the word antidisestablishmentarianism) and two parts pro-anti-bullying. That's not to say, of course, that I am pro-bullying. Bottom line, I'm a criminal and juvenile defense attorney. I'm the one who defends the one who won the fight--bully or erstwhile wuss. Wait, was that insensitive?

“You better have my bread.” 
Possession of Defaced Firearm, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-3d


Jersey City police charged David King with, among other things, Possession of Defaced Firearm, according to nj.com.

The 35-year-old Bayonne man allegedly went into a woman's home on May 19, 2013, as reported on the news site.

Stating, “You better have my bread,” he indicated he had an alleged weapon in his waistband, according to the media report.

While fleeing the scene, the news indicates he pointed an alleged 9mm loaded handgun at a police officer.

Possession of Defaced Firearm, N.J.S.A. 2c:39-3d

New Jersey law prohibits the possession of a defaced firearm. Providing the elements of this offense, the NJ Code of Criminal Justice states in pertinent part:
Defaced Firearms
Any person who
has in his possession
any firearm which has been defaced,
except an antique firearm or an antique handgun,
is guilty of a crime of the fourth degree.

Sentencing Exposure

  • Fines: Up to $10,000.00
  • State Prison: Up to 18 months
  • Victims of Crime Compensation Assessment (VCCA): $50.00 (or $100)
  • Safe Neighborhood Services Fund Assessment: $75
  • Law Enforcement Officer Training & Equipment Fund: $30
  • Probation: 1 to 5 years, conditioned on county jail up to 364 days
  • Suspended Sentence: Up to 5 years
  • Additional Penalties:
    • Community service
    • Court Costs
New Jersey Weapons Attorney Michael A. Smolensky, Esq., knows how to protect his clients. Mr. Smolensky can provide consultations on all cases regarding weapon crimes. Call Now—(856) 812-0321.

Distracted Driving: Nationally and in New Jersey

New Jersey Ave.
Woodbury, NJ
© 2013 Michael A. Smolensky, Esq.

What is “distracted driving?”

“Distracted driving” may be defined as multi-tasking while operating a moving motor vehicle. These other tasks divert a driver's attention from the road.

What are examples of distracted driving?

Common examples of distractions that take a driver's attention away from the road may include but are not limited to:
  • dialing, answering, talking or listening to another person, retrieving or leaving voicemail, or otherwise using a telephone,
  • composing, sending, reading, retrieving, looking at or listening to, or otherwise engaging with electronic messages, email, and apps either manually or with speech-to-text devices,
  • listening to music or audiobooks, and
  • operating a GPS unit.
This is a non-exhaustive list.

Is distracted driving serious?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distraction-related crashes result in more than 3,000 people killed in the U.S.A. each year. Additionally, these crashes resulted in nearly half a million people injured during the same time span. Rich Bradley, “Texting & Driving,” SJFirst 5 (May/June 2013). Therefore, based on these statistics distracted driving poses a serious danger.

How seriously do Americans take distracted driving?

Among respondents in a 2012 survey by AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (AAAFTS), 88.5% said drivers talking on cell phones somewhat or very seriously threaten their safety. Despite the apparent widespread awareness of these dangers, however, results of the the same survey indicated:
  • 68.9% of licensed drivers talked on a cell phone while driving at least once within the previous 30 days
  • 31.9% said they had done so fairly often or regularly during the same 30 day time span

What is New Jersey doing about distracted driving?

According to a NJ State Police report, “driver inattention” in 2011 contributed to 178 traffic fatalities in New Jersey. Ibid.

In addition to increasing the penalties for distracted driving, “Nikki's Law” is pending in the State House. This legislation is named in memory of Nikki Kellenyi, an 18-year old National Honor Society for Business student and champion equestrian from Washington Township, New Jersey. N.J. Senate Transportation Committee Statement to Senate Bill 2406 (May 20, 2013).

“Nikki's Law” will require the Commissioner of Transportation to erect signs notifying motorists that the operator of a moving motor vehicle is prohibited from text messaging and sending electronic messages via wireless telephone or electronic communication device. “Texting While Driving: Signage bill clears state committee,” SJFirst 7 (July/August 2013).

New Jersey Municipal Court Attorney Michael A. Smolensky, Esq., knows how to protect his clients. Mr. Smolensky can provide consultations on all cases regarding driving while distracted. Call Now—(856) 812-0321.

New Jersey Distracted Driving Penalty Hike

Finns Point National Cemetery
Pennsville, Salem County, NJ
©2013 Michael A. Smolensky, Esq.

Do increased fines yield greater safety?

On Thursday, June 27, 2013, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation hiking penalties for texting and phoning without a hands-free device while driving. This amends N.J.S.A. 39:4-97.3.

When will the new Distracted Driving penalties go into effect?

The new law should go into effect in 13 months, on July 1, 2014.

To whom does the Distracted Driving law apply? Is anyone excluded?

This applies to the use of wireless telephones and electronic communication devices while driving. But the law excludes amateur radio (“ham radio”) equipment, and citizen's band (“C.B.”) radios used by commercial operators or authorized emergency vehicles. Depending on the circumstances other exclusions may apply.
What are the penalties under the amended NJ Distracted Driving law?
First Offense: minimum $200, up to $400 fine
Second Offense: minimum $400, up to $600 fine
Subsequent Offenses: minimum $600, up to $800 fine, up to 90 day license suspension, and three motor vehicle penalty points

How will the Distracted Driving proceeds be distributed in New Jersey?

The county and municipality will receive 50% of the fine collected, divided equally. The State Treasurer will allocate the remaining 50% to MVC for a public education program about distracted driving.

NJ Traffic Ticket Attorney Michael A. Smolensky, Esq., knows how to protect his clients. Mr. Smolensky can provide consultations on all cases regarding distracted driving. Call Now—(856) 812-0321.

Ruby Wax On Mental Illness

What's So Funny About Mental Illness?

Thought Provocation

Tasso In The Madhouse
Eugène Delacroix
[Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons
  • What ratio of people suffer from some form of Mental Illness?

  • What can prevent a baby from distinguishing right from wrong?

  • Which brain lobe enables vision?

  • Which brain lobe enables hearing?

  • Does illness in every organ induce sympathy, except the brain?

  • How can you foster dendrite growth? Would you want to? Why?

Please view this post featuring Elyn Saks for her TEDTalk about mental illness.

How Do New Jersey Courts Decide Who To Summon For Jury Duty?

Cumberland County Courthouse
60 W. Broad St.
Bridgeton, NJ 08302

Photograph by Tim Kiser
via Wikimedia Commons

Who Is Responsible For Summoning Jurors?

The Assignment Judge of the vicinage bears the responsibility to summon jurors.

Superior Courts in New Jersey have jurisdiction over defined geographical areas.

These areas are called vicinages.

Eleven New Jersey vicinages coincide with the county where the courthouse stands. For example, the boundaries of Vicinage 4 coincide with the borders of Camden County.

Four vicinages, however, comprise more than one county. For example, Vicinage 15 includes Gloucester County, Cumberland County, and Salem County.

One judge in each vicinage bears the designation "Assignment Judge" ("A.J."). The A.J.'s authority extends throughout the vicinage.

The A.J. oversees the administration of summoning jurors.

How Does An Assignment Judge Decide Who To Summon For Jury Duty?

The Assignment Judge administers a process that is public and random.
Previously I described how New Jersey courts compile juror source lists. The A.J. administers the drawing of names from the juror source list before each Superior Court session.
The names drawn from the juror source list will be summoned either for grand jury or petit jury service.

The Assignment Judge must specify:
  • how many panels of grand and petit jurors should be drawn,
  • how many names should be drawn for each panel, and
  • how the lists of names should be prepared.

When circumstances require additional grand or petit jury panels, an A.J. must provide the additional panels from the juror source list.
Drawing names and assigning individuals to panels must be public and random.

What Information About Citizens Is Collected?

The Assignment Judge gathers information about each juror's identity.
The resulting list must consist of each person's:
  • name,
  • address, and
  • occupation, if available.

Are Tax Dollars Spent On An Efficient Summoning Process?

New Jersey courts embrace modern technology for efficient administration of randomly selecting jurors and assigning them to panels.
If modern technology is used for greater efficiency, the Assignment Judge must maintain the integrity of the courts.

To maintain the integrity of the judiciary the Assignment Judge must:
  1. specify with particularity the method of random selection in his instructions, and
  2. make available upon request for public inspection the specification of the method and any programs and procedures used to implement the method, including any computer programs.

New Jersey Trial Attorney, Michael Smolensky, Esquire, knows how to protect his clients. Based on trial experience, which includes selecting juries, Mr. Smolensky would like to help you.

Call Now—(856) 812-0321.

New Jersey Juror Summons, Questionnaire, and Penalties

Salem County Courthouse
92 Market Street
Salem, New Jersey 08079
Previously I blogged about the New Jersey Juror Questionnaire. That post, and a post about The Six Requirements for Jury Duty in New Jersey, describe:
  • the court's authority to summon jurors and mail a questionnaire,
  • examples of questions one may expect to be asked, and
  • the legal basis for the questions.

A prospective juror must not ignore either the summons or the questionnaire.

Failure to respond to the questionnaire, failure to appear for jury service, or refusal to serve, will subject a person to a fine of up to $500, or punishment for contempt of court.

The only defense for an incompliant citizen is to appear in court with a reasonable excuse. A judge will determine whether the excuse is objectively reasonable.

This means New Jersey citizens are expected to cooperate with the courts. An individual who believes he should be exempt is expected to communicate his reasons to the court. Cooperation allows the courts to hear the reasons for an exemption request, and to decide accordingly.

Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Smolensky, Esquire, knows how to protect his clients. Mr. Smolensky can provide consultations on all cases regarding the right to trial in New Jersey.

Call Now—(856) 812-0321.

Do You Want “Bruce Lee” Wisdom?

Be retweetable my friend.

~> ~> Follow Me <~ <~

Statue of Bruce Lee,
by 文子言木 (Own work)
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

New Jersey Juror Questionnaire

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
March 8, 1841–March 6, 1935
U.S. Supreme Court, 1902-1932
How would it make you feel...
To receive a questionnaire in the mail?
To realize it is from the government?
To find out it is mandatory?
To see that stamp of Oliver Wendell Holmes?

Would your feeling change if...
This were your ticket to get out of jury service?
Indeed, any New Jersey citizen on the juror source list could receive a questionnaire. (It is unlikely, however, that stamp of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., will appear on it.)

Sent by the Assignment Judge of each county, the answers enable our courts to determine whether:
  • one is qualified for jury service,
  • grounds exist for claims of exemption, or
  • grounds exist to grant a deferral of service.
A questionnaire may arrive with service of a jury service summons. Or it may arrive before service of the summons. In my county, the Assignment Judge sent the questionnaire with the a jury service summons.

Corresponding with the six requirements for jury duty in New Jersey, the questions inquire about various personal issues.

Age Qualifications

  • Are you 18 years of age or older?
  • If you are age 75 or older, do you want to be excused?

Residency Qualifications

  • Are you a resident of the county where the court sits?
  • Are you a resident of the United States?

Physical and Mental Ability

  • Are you mentally and physically able to perform the functions of a juror?
  • Can you read and understand English?

Criminal Disqualifications

These questions are not about traffic or disorderly person offenses.
  • Have you been convicted or pleaded guilty to a crime?
  • What is your criminal history?


  • Who is your employer?
  • What is your occupation?
  • Are you employed full time by
    • the State of NJ, or
    • any county, municipality, public school or college,
    • or any NJ government agency, commission, entity, etc?

Other Personal Questions

  • What is your phone number?
  • What is your date of birth?

Trial Attorney Michael Smolensky, Esquire, knows how to protect his clients. Mr. Smolensky can provide consultations on all cases regarding jury and bench trials.

Call Now—(856) 812-0321.

The Four Sources of Juror Lists in New Jersey

Juror Source Lists

Le triomphe de la Justice
Louis-Jean-Jacques Durameau (1733-1796)
[Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons

Did you ever wonder how a court tracked down you, a New Jersey resident, for jury duty?

Each year, if not more frequently, the Assignment Judge of the county court where you live combines the following lists of New Jersey residents:
  • Registered voters,
  • Licensed drivers,
  • Filers of State gross income tax returns, and
  • Filers of homestead rebate or credit application forms.

The Assignment Judge receives these sources from the:
  • County election board,
  • Motor Vehicle Commission (formerly Division of Motor Vehicles), and
  • State Division of Taxation

This is not an exhaustive list. Either the Assignment Judge or the Supreme Court of New Jersey may rely on other sources to contribute to the breadth of the juror list.

Merger into a single list, however, must include reasonable efforts to eliminate name duplication.

Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Smolensky, Esquire, knows how to protect his clients. Mr. Smolensky can provide consultations on all cases regarding jury selection and trial in New Jersey.

Call Now—(856) 812-0321.

The Six Requirements for Jury Duty in New Jersey

New Jersey, NJ, jury, juries, jury duty, jury service, trial, trial attorney, trial lawyer, Law Office of Michael A. Smolensky LLC, Michael Smolensky Esquire
The Jury, by John Morgan
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Previously I blogged about jury duty in New Jersey.

Continuing with the same topic, this post will provide the qualifications for jury service in New Jersey.

Under New Jersey law, every person summoned as a juror must:
  1. be 18 years of age or older,
  2. be able to read and understand the English language,
  3. be a citizen of the United States,
  4. be a resident of the county in which the person is summoned,
  5. not have been convicted of any indictable offense under the laws of this State, another state, or the United States, and
  6. not have any mental or physical disability which will prevent the person from properly serving as a juror.
Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Smolensky, Esquire, knows how to protect his clients. Mr. Smolensky can provide consultations on all cases regarding jury and bench trials.

Call Now—(856) 812-0321.