All posts by Mark A. Schneider

Things to Know Before Your Family Court Hearing

Family law cases are usually not easy for those involved, it can be confusing, emotionally agonizing, and expensive. Getting clear information and coordinating agendas may seem nearly impossible, no matter how much money or advice you have. With so much information coming at you from well-intended friends and family, you should be familiar with some basics for handling these kinds of matters.

7 Things to Know Before Going to Family Court

Here’s what you need to know before your family law court hearing:

  1. 1. Be on time to the Courthouse. You will need time to tell the bailiff that you are present in the courthouse before the case begins.
  2. 2. Make sure that you are prepared. Support calculations can be to the point, but can also be easily manipulated if your former partner has a skilled attorney on their side. You should be able to defend your points so that they cannot be questioned or distorted by any way.
  3. 3. Have your arguments ready, along with your explanation for each. Some arguments tend to annoy Judges if they are not properly backed up with information, which will lead you to be on the Judge’s bad side.
  4. 4. When you’re in front of the Judge, speak to him or her and not to your ex. Side conversation and dirty looks are not favorable in the court room.
  5. 5. Stay on the good side of the Judge. Acting inappropriately out of anger or annoyance will only put you into a worse situation. The Judge will form a negative opinion of you if you are rude, which could lead to a negative outcome in your case.
  6. 6. Everything that is in writing must be given to the Judge and the other side as well. Even if you cannot stand your former spouse, they are entitled to see any documents that are being reviewed by the Judge.
  7. 7. Once the Judge has heard everything from you and your former partner, they are going to make an Order. This Order could be made in the middle of the trial or at the end depending on the Judge’s opinion. Once the Judge says that they are ready to decide, you will need to start taking notes on what is being said. Either you or your former spouse will have to put this Order into writing after the hearing. If this step is misconstrued, you stand to lose a great deal—so don’t think about changing it.

Consult an Attorney for your Family Law Case

These condensed points will help you to win your case. It may not seem necessary to hire an attorney to represent you; however, you should be aware that you will likely be faced with a slew of documents, requirements, and expectations that you might not be prepared for otherwise. If you’re facing a family law hearing, seeking the assistance of a well-practiced attorney will not only benefit you, but reduce some of the stress you might be experiencing. Call me, Mark A. Schneider, Esq. at (609) 242- 9337 today for a free consultation.

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What are Indictable Crimes?

In New Jersey, crimes are either categorized as indictables, disorderly person offenses, and petty disorderly offenses, whereas other states only have two categories: felonies and misdemeanors. An indictable crime in the Garden State is the same as a felony in most other places and can be classified from first through fourth degree. First degree infractions are much more serious than those of fourth degree, but all indictable offenses are punishable with a prison sentence of at least one year.

Indictable Offenses

Indictables are an umbrella term that includes a number of different violations that range in severity.  A judge determines sentences and punishment for these transgressions. For each indictable crime, the penalties range depending on the degree of the incident. As previously stated, first degree crimes are much more serious than the others and carry significantly higher penalties.  Acts of this nature include murder, rape, and manslaughter, which the jail term ranges between 10 and 20 years, or life if the accused is convicted of murder in addition to a fine of up to $200,000.  Second degree indictables are other sex crimes, burglary, kidnapping, and drug and white collar crimes which can lead to a prison sentence of 5 to10 years with fines of up to $150,000.

Violations of the third degree include acts of arson, varied robbery offenses, possession of controlled substances, and certain DUI offenses. Conviction of a third degree is punishable by up to 5 years in jail and a $15,000 fine. Finally, fourth degree offenses, which have the least penalties comprise of stalking, other robbery offenses, forgery, and some DUI offenses. A fourth degree conviction earns up to 18 months in prison with a fine of up to $10,000. Depending on any previous convictions, the degree can be increased to the next level.  This would be the case for someone receiving a second charge for forgery, for example.  If the person is caught a second time committing the same offense (in this case, forgery) it then becomes a third degree crime instead of a fourth.

Criminal Statutes of Limitations

New Jersey law states that the prosecution must begin soon after the infraction is committed, or when the person is suspected of committing the act. Criminal statutes of limitations vary in time that the state can wait before pressing charges, depending on the specific offense. First degree indictables such as murder have no time limit on when the court can charge a person because of the severity of such transgressions.

Being convicted of an indictable crime is something that will haunt you forever. You stand nearly no chance of getting a job or gaining college acceptance if you have a felony conviction. In short, it will ruin your life if you do not seek proper legal guidance.  If this is the situation you’re in, you need the help of a veteran defense attorney who’s well-versed in criminal law.  With over 23 years of experience, I’m the guy for the job. Call me, Mark A. Schneider, Esq. at (609) 242- 9337 today for a free consultation of your case.

The Cost of a DWI Conviction

As an attorney who has handled more than one thousand DWI cases in the past 23 years, I can tell you that a DWI is one of the most common charges the average person is likely to receive.  While most people associate this charge specifically with alcohol, it’s important to keep in mind that it also pertains to any substance that has the ability to alter your sobriety—even certain prescription medications.

N.J.S.A. 39-4-50

According to New Jersey Statute N.J.S.A. 39-4-50, you are considered driving while intoxicated if you “operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, narcotic, hallucinogenic or habit-producing drug, or operates a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or more by weight of alcohol”.

There are some pretty hefty consequences for those convicted of a DWI charge, so make sure you seek legal assistance to clear it up before it affects your life.

The Penalties for a DWI Conviction

The following is a list of penalties associated with a DWI conviction:

  • Jail Term and Fines: Incarceration can be up to 30 days. In addition, you are also required to complete 12-48 hours of community service.  For first offense conviction, your court costs and fines range anywhere from about $3,000 to around $5,000.
  • Loss of License: This is perhaps the most obvious of the consequences of a DWI conviction.  A first offense in the State of New Jersey requires between 3 months to one year suspension of your driving privileges depending on your BAC level.
  • Ignition Interlock Device: If your BAC level was .15% or higher on your first offense, you are required to install an ignition interlock device in all vehicles you own for between 6 months and one year after your driving privileges are reinstated.  You should also note that these devices have a $75 a month maintenance fee.
  • Employment: All the court dates, jail time, and community service that come along with a DWI conviction can greatly affect your current work schedule and job.  A conviction can give you a substantial disadvantage to other applicants since most employers are uncomfortable hiring an employee with a DWI conviction.  Beyond that, some jobs may no longer even be an option for you (like driving a cab or anything with a delivery service).
  • Higher Insurance Rates: If convicted, you would be considered a “high-risk” driver, which means your insurance premium will increase—and could possibly even double or triple in cost for the next few years following the conviction.  Depending on your auto insurance company policy, they could even terminate your coverage.
  • Background Checks: A drunk driving conviction will show up on a background check.  They are common additions to the application process for most employers.  Colleges and universities also look at your history when considering you for admission and for financial aid.  Also know that most schools won’t admit students with DWI convictions and any scholarship money will most likely be withdrawn as a result of a guilty charge.
  • Moving Out of State: Most States share conviction information for DUI/DWI charges. That means if you move to a new State, the new State will honor your conviction from New Jersey and treat it as if it happened in theirs, so there’s no escaping it.
  • Travel: People who have a DUI/DWI conviction are no longer permitted entry into Canada.  If you are a Foreign National and leave the USA, you may not be permitted to return into the USA.

Consulting an Attorney for DWI

Since a DWI charge carries such severe penalties even for first time offenders, you need to seek skilled legal expertise if you want a positive outcome to your case. You will need a team of experts to get you through the process as successfully as possible.  A DWI conviction is not a one and done kind of thing—it will haunt you for years to come.  So call me, Mark A. Schneider, Esq. today at (609) 242-9337 to talk about your options.  Don’t leave your freedom in the hands of fate.

When is Driving While Suspended a Criminal Offense?

If you have been convicted of DUI/DWI and drive while your license is suspended you can be convicted of a crime and sent to jail for a period between 6 months without parole and eighteen months. On March 3rd, the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court decided a case that has the potential to affect a lot of people.

State v. Perry

According to the decision in State v. Perry, if the DWI suspension period has already expired prior to the defendant being charged with driving while on a suspended license, it is not considered a criminal offense.  The statute in question, 2C-40-26, says:

“It shall be a crime of the fourth degree to operate a motor vehicle during the period of license suspension in violation of R.S.39:3-40... A person convicted of an offense under this subsection shall be sentenced by the court to a term of imprisonment.”

Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs carries consequences such as, fines, imprisonment, or the loss of your driving privileges. In the State of New Jersey, there is a mandatory license suspension if convicted of a DWI/DUI or refusal to submit a chemical test. The length of time an offender’s license is suspended varies depending on how high the driver’s blood alcohol content was at the time of the arrest and whether this was the first offense. After the suspension period has expired, NJ drivers are required to pay a restoration fee to reinstate their license.

Driving While Suspended in NJ

Every day, police officers stop scores of New Jersey motorists only to find out that they have been driving with a suspended license. Those charged with driving with a suspended license are subject to fines, loss of driving privileges for an additional period of time, and possible imprisonment. However, suspensions arising from certain violations, including a DWI conviction, suffer more severe punishments. A first offense will result in a fine up to $500. Any subsequent violations during the same suspension term will be charged as a fourth degree crime, which is punishable by a mandatory jail term of 180 days, a loss of license between one to two years, and over $1,000 worth of fines.

Penalties for a driving while suspended charge can be severe and the knowledge and expertise of a qualified defense attorney are required. The law office of Mark A. Schneider, Esquire can help you negotiate lower penalties or try to get the charges dismissed altogether. Contact me today at (609) 242-9337 to review your driving while suspended case.

Is Your Contractor Following Proper Guidelines?

Guidelines for Home Improvement Contractors

Contractor Following Proper GuidelinesEver since Hurricane Sandy devastated the Jersey coastline, people and businesses have been struggling to rebuild the damage in its wake.  To date it is the second costliest hurricane since 1900, with about fifty billion dollars in total damages and over 346,000 homes damaged in New Jersey alone.  With so much left to repair, it’s opened a large need for handymen in the home improvement and new home builders industry.  Problems with insurance payouts have exacerbated the issue. If you were part of the group caught up in this scenario, it might be tempting to accept an offer from any guy who says he can do what you need, cheap, just to get the job done.  But is your contractor following proper guidelines?  Did you know that all home improvement contractors in the State of New Jersey need a license to perform home repair work?

Unfortunately, home improvement fraud has become one of the most common types of consumer fraud.  Due to the alarming amount of complaints about missed deadlines, shoddy workmanship, and even failure to complete projects, the State responded by enacting the Home Improvement Practices Act, along with the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (the CFA).  These laws set very stringent regulations for home improvement contracts.  Under these protective statutes, contractors are required to annually register with the State Division of Consumer Affairs.  Those who do not will not be issued municipal construction permits, meaning a contractor who does not go through this process is not qualified to complete home improvement work in New Jersey.

Statement of Work

Also, any home improvement work to be done in excess of $500 must be in writing and include these elements:

  • The contractor’s name, address, and State registration number
  • Description of the work to be done
  • Total contract price to be paid
  • Project start and end date
  • Description of supplies to be used
  • Statement of warranty or guarantee for any materials, products, labor, or services
  • Description of security or mortgage interest in connection with the financing or sale of the home improvement

Your contractor also needs to provide you with a copy of his general liability insurance before you sign the contract.  They also need to tell you, in writing, that you can cancel your signed contract for any reason before midnight on the third business day.  Also be aware of what your contractor cannot do.  They can not demand a final payment before the completion of work, or until the final municipal inspection has taken place.  Make your contractor obtain all necessary construction permits before starting any work.

Complaint Against a Contractor

So what do you do if you have a complaint against your home improvement contractor?  The easiest way is to try and resolve the issue directly with the contractor and give them the opportunity to correct the problem.  In the event that doesn’t work, contact an attorney well-versed in construction law to assist you in resolving your dispute.  According to the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, any contractor violating the Act is required by law to pay three times your actual damages in addition to your attorney fees.  So if a construction dispute does arise, call me, Mark A. Schneider, today for a free consultation at (609) 242-9337.  In matters like these, you need an attorney with a proven track record of winning Consumer Fraud and Construction Negligence case.

10 Things You Need to Know Before Buying a Home

Things You Need to Know Before Buying a HomeBuying a house can be a very exciting time, especially for first time home-buyers, but it can also be nerve wrecking and a bit overwhelming.  Buying a home is huge commitment legally, financially, and emotionally.  Whether you are looking for your starter home or wanting to expand into something bigger, read this first before you go any further.

If you’ve ever bought a home before, you’ve experienced the process before: endless amounts of paperwork from the initial offer and contract to home inspections and the mortgage package.  There is a massive amount of fine print involved with any real estate transaction—are you carefully reading it all?  Before you consider buying a new home, you should enlist the services of a qualified real estate attorney.

What a New Jersey Home-Buyer Should Know

I have outlined 10 things that a New Jersey home buyer should know:

  1. 1. What New Jersey Real Estate Attorneys Do: My primary responsibility is to make sure that the contract you enter into protects your interests. Many times unknown title (ownership) issues are discovered. A buyer’s attorney must discover them and the seller’s attorney must fix them.  I supervise the closing process and guide you through it, coordinating with the brokers, your inspectors, title companies, surveyors and work closely with lenders (who allow attorneys in New Jersey close or disburse mortgages), to iron out problems, and set closings.
  2. 2. What New Jersey Real Estate Attorneys Don’t Do: What I don’t do is inspect the house or arrange homeowners insurance for you.
  3. 3. Legal Fees: A good real estate attorney won’t tack on hidden fees.  Also be leery of really low quotes that could potentially cost you more in the long run with exorbitant charges for copies and faxes.  Representation for a buyer is generally a little bit more than for a seller because of the additional work that needs to be done.
  4. 4. “As Is” Properties: This pretty much means exactly as it says: you’re getting what’s there and that’s it.  This is the source of more litigation in real estate transactions than anything else in the contract—and that is why it’s so important for you to have a qualified real estate attorney.  There are certain things a seller must do before closing: like ensuring that the overall structure, the house, and its operating systems (electrical, heating, plumbing) are all in decent working order at the time of closing.  That this doesn’t mean the seller has to assure the systems are new, and this many times can lead to problems.  Sellers are obligated by law to divulge any hidden defects that they are aware of.
  5. 5. Home Inspection: In the State of New Jersey, home inspections are performed by licensed home inspectors who physically examine a house from the structure itself, foundation to roof, and the systems within.  Because of the nature of houses, there are many, often hidden, things that can potentially be wrong.  New Jersey has some of the oldest houses in the country, and the older something is, the more likely parts will break.  As with older things, they are likely to be more expensive to fix—which is why a home inspection is so important.
  6. 6. Mortgages: A mortgage is a contract that allows the lender to take your house away from you if you fail to properly pay your home loan.  The loan agreement is called a “Note” and it is also a contract.  These two contracts form the basis of the financial transaction. They are highly regulated and sometimes complex documents.  A qualified real estate attorney will have substantial mortgage banking experience.
  7. 7. Attorney Review Period: There is a mandatory three business day timeframe in which the sellers and buyers have the right to cancel a Realtor prepared Sales Agreement. This rule allows the parties to have the agreement reviewed by an attorney. The review period starts when the last party signs the Realtor agreement.  It is not, however, based off when the attorney receives the contract.
  8. 8. Contingencies: A Contingency allows the buyer to lawfully cancel the contract on the happening of certain events. These events must be listed in the contract and must be worded carefully in order to have them take the effect that you want.
  9. 9. Escrows: Are monies that are “set aside” in an escrow account collected by your lender every month that are used to pay your property taxes, insurance, and PMI.  Sometimes an escrow is withheld from the seller at closing to pay for items not fully closed at the time of the closing.
  10. 10. Closing Date: This date is the date that title transfers from the seller to the buyer.  It is usually set by the buyer’s mortgage lender in the initial contract based on how long the professionals think it will take to get all the steps to closing completed and the loan funded.

If you’re thinking about buying a home or are in the market for one, don’t muddle through it alone.  You want an attorney who has years of practice that can easily navigate the ins and outs of home buying.  Give me, Mark A. Schneider, Esq. a call today at (609) 242-9337 if you have any real estate questions or for a free consultation.