Elizabeth, New Jersey – On April 1, 2020 the New Jersey Supreme Court decided State v. Mark Jackson and State v. Jamie Monroe. Both defendants made recorded phone calls from county jails and the State used those recordings in the prosecutions. The trials courts both suppressed the evidence, but the Appellate Division reversed the suppressions and admitted the evidence. The Appellate Division reasoned the defendants did not have reasonable expectations of privacy in their phone calls from the jails because they were properly warned that all calls were recorded and could be used as evidence and because the calls were not to persons with whom any privilege attached.
The Court’s holdings were not surprising or new. Calls from jails and prisons have long been recorded and have long been admitted as evidence against defendants in court. The important lesson from this case is also not a new lesson, but it is perhaps the most important lesson for all persons accused of criminal offenses: KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT. Do not talk to anyone other than your lawyer about the crimes you are accused of. Do not speak to your family about the details. Do not speak to friends. Do not speak to other inmates. Do not speak to co-conspirators. Most importantly, do not speak to the police. Simply stated, do not talk to anyone. If you are foolish enough to speak to someone about your offenses, do not compound the mistake by doing so on a recorded phone line.
While a talented criminal defense lawyer can help suppress some evidence or minimize the impact of other evidence, there are some things that not even the most talented lawyer is going to be extremely challenged to overcome. One example is a recording of the crime or a recorded admission such as occurred in these cases. Often a criminal defendant’s worst enemy is his or her own bad decisions. The takeaway here is to not pile one mistake or bad decision on others. If you are charged with a crime, whether you know you are guilty or innocent, protect yourself by keeping your mouth shut and hiring a lawyer as quickly as possible.