Important Legal Updates For New Jersey: Summer 2018
New Jersey Makes Bold Move to Adjourn All Marijuana-Related Cases
On July 24, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal made an announcement instructing all municipal prosecutors to adjourn any marijuana-related cases until September 4 or later in order to coincide with the New Jersey State Senate’s plan to consider bill legalizing marijuana.
This is a game changer for thousands of New Jersey citizens who currently face minor marijuana possession charges. It also represents a sign that not only is New Jersey heading towards decriminalization of marijuana, but potentially even legalization of the substance. The stall could also provide the attorney general with time to prepare a new set of directives for county and state prosecutors.
While Chris Christie was governor, New Jersey saw a record number of marijuana-related arrests and charges. In 2016 alone, 36,000 people were charged with marijuana-related charges in the state, 32,000 of which were minor cannabis possession charges. According to FBI crime data, not only did New Jersey have the second-highest cannabis arrest rate in the entire U.S., but the state experienced the highest increase in marijuana-related arrests between 2015 and 2016.
Even before Governor Murphy took office and vowed to decriminalize marijuana use, some New Jersey prosecutors were taking things into their own hands. One prosecutor announced that his office would try to downgrade marijuana-related charges to “non-criminal” charges and try to dismiss low-level charges altogether, instead offering diversion as an option for defendants with prior drug charges. In effect, there was an effort from some prosecutors and the Jersey City Mayor to decriminalize cannabis even before the recent announcement.
ICE Targets New Jersey Businesses for Legal Violations
While New Jersey made progress towards decriminalizing marijuana, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) immigration officials notified 75 New Jersey businesses that their hiring records would be audited to determine if they employed unauthorized immigrants or broke any laws in their hiring practices. These particular businesses were targeted for audits earlier in July during a four-day nationwide operation by ICE, during which 32 people were also arrested.
ICE has been active in New Jersey this year, after descending on a number of 7-Eleven convenience stores to check the immigration status of employees. That was followed by handing out thousands of Notices of Inspection and making arrests at businesses suspected of hiring unauthorized workers or violating other laws.
Those businesses targeted for auditing have been told to turn over their hiring records within three days, and if they are found “employing unauthorized immigrants,” they could potentially face criminal prosecution.
The Best in New Jersey Defense
If you have been unfairly targeted for a marijuana crime, or had your rights otherwise violated by a federal agency, contact the office of Phillip J. Murphy today to find out how we can ensure that your rights are protected.