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Mr. Tumelty represented Helena Hendricks, who was charged with first degree murder in Atlantic County Superior Court. The defendant faced a number of additional charges, including armed robbery, conspiracy and possession of a handgun for an unlawful purpose. At the conclusion of a jury trial that lasted three weeks, the defendant was found "not guilty" of all charges.

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Evidence Admissibility Laws May Change the Way Conspiring Spouses Converse in the Near Future

The laws governing what types of evidence are admissible in court are constantly changing. In fact, on Dec. 15, 2014, a new measure was passed by the NJ State Assembly that could impact a large portion of how criminal cases in the Garden State are prosecuted. The bill, if passed by the full Legislature, would make conversations between spouses admissible as evidence in trials when the conversations relate to criminal activities.

Currently, lawyers cannot admit evidence from private conversations between spouses as in court. The privilege that allows spouses to avoid having their private conversations used in court is part of an old law that is supposed to promote the sanctity of marriage.

After a court case involving a wire-tap with a third party and a couple planning a crime, legislators realized that the couples’ legal privilege was unfair. Soon after the case had finished, lawmakers in New Jersey quickly created an exception that would amend the New Jersey rules of evidence. The exception basically denies couples the right to invoke privilege if they are both part of an illegal scheme.

The Assembly passed the measure unanimously. It is expected to pass through the Legislature and be signed into law by Gov. Chris Christie in 2015. Similar exceptions already exist for other privileges, such as those held between an attorney and a client.

The rationale behind this new law is that allowing spouses to claim privilege under the current NJ laws basically inoculates them against being charged with a multitude of crimes. In order to make the legal system fair, lawmakers argued, they have to make sure that this kind of exception is allowed in courts. Otherwise, it will likely result in many court cases being dismissed, despite there being a clear need for justice.

If you or your spouse are being charged with a crime, it is absolutely necessary to find a lawyer who has the experience and knowledge base necessary to help you protect your rights. Contact John W. Tumelty for skilled legal representation with your criminal charges.

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