The Law Office of Kenneth Vercammen
& Associates, P.C.
2053 Woodbridge Ave.
Edison, NJ 08817
DEFENSE TO CRIMINAL CHARGES
BY KENNETH A. VERCAMMEN
Too often lawyers throw up their hands when a client presents a ticket involving Drug Possession, Driving While Suspended, DWI or Assault. While defense of criminal court charges involving serious motor vehicle charges may become an involved process requiring commitment and persistence, there are a number of viable defenses and arguments that can achieve a successful result. Rather than simply suggest that a client plead guilty and avoid trial, an attorney should accept the challenge and apply his best legal talents to protect the clients rights.
1. The In-Office Interview at the Law Office
We advise potential clients to bring in a copy of the complaint, all their papers in connection with their case, accident report, and any documents they received from the Motor Vehicle Commissions. Often times I will instruct them to write a confidential narrative if it is a case that is fact- specific or involves a great deal of detail, such as an assault case.
When the client is first in the office, we have them fill out the Confidential New Criminal Case Interview Sheet. We obtain background information such as their name, address, the offenses charged, date of the persons arrest, other witnesses, statements given to them by the police, their occupation and information regarding prior criminal convictions and prior motor vehicle convictions. Our interview sheet also asks if there is anything else important, such as a medical condition that affects their case. This form will also let us know whether or not the client will follow instructions and cooperate with us.
If they refuse to provide information we may have a problem client. After reviewing the summons and the interview sheet, I ask a series of questions of the client. We request the client wait until the end of the interview before explaining their side of the story. We also ask them if there is anything else of importance in connection with the case that we should know. The client may have pending serious criminal charges in another state or country. I usually open up our statute book and show the clients the specific language of the offense they are charged with and explain to them the maximum penalties that could be imposed. By understanding the charges they are facing, my clients are more likely to realize the seriousness of the offense and pay our retainer.
2. Retaining the Attorney
Rule 1:11-2 of the Rules of Professional Conduct indicate a retainer letter or written statement of fees is required for new clients. I also provide all my clients with written information explaining how to appear in court, information on surcharges, information on points, and information regarding substance abuse treatment, if applicable.
Once we receive our retainer (are paid), we begin work right away. Usually while the client is still in the office, we prepare a discovery letter on the computer to the prosecutor/district attorney and court and hand a copy to the client. We occasionally call the court to advise them that we will be handling the case and to inquire who handles discovery. We check the Lawyers Diary to determine who are the judges and prosecutor/district attorneys for the county or town. It is important to learn about the judge and the prosecutor.
We require a great deal of cooperation from our clients in an effort to help keep their costs reasonable. We require our clients to take photographs of accident sites and prepare diagrams and provide us with the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of witnesses.
I recommend that my clients provide me with a list of between 10 to 15 reasons why they should not go to jail and why court should impose the minimum license suspension. We recommend they obtain a Motor Vehicle Abstract. This provides us with information for mitigation of penalties and also provides information to be considered by the judge in sentencing.
Kenneth Vercammen was selected one of only three attorneys as a Super Lawyer 2007-2008 in NJ Monthly in the Criminal - DWI. Kenneth Vercammen was the NJ State Bar Municipal Court Attorney of the Year and past president of the Middlesex County Municipal Prosecutor's Association.?? He is the past chair of the NJ State Bar Association Municipal Court Section. He is the Deputy chair of the ABA Criminal Law committee, GP Division.