Ken Thayer Podcast with guest Tom Martin

A Glimpse into Criminal Law with Tom Martin



In this week’s episode of Attorney Talk, Ken Thayer interviews Tom Martin, who has been a practicing attorney for 13 years in the state of New Jersey. During the show, Tom talks about what it’s like to be a solo practitioner in the area of criminal law on the defense side, plea-bargaining versus trying a case, jury cases, and technology and the law.

Main Questions Asked:

  • What does it mean to be a solo practitioner?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a solo practitioner?
  • Talk about your practice being specific to criminal law on the defense side.
  • How do most of your defense clients find you?
  • Do the criminal matters fall into certain categories of crimes?
  • How are the criminal court systems in New Jersey handling these matters?
  • What is the difference between plea bargaining a case and trying a case?
  • For the jury cases you’ve had, do you think the jury gets it right?
  • What is the difference between a local level criminal court, quasi criminal court, and superior court?
  • What is the difference between a grand jury indictment as opposed to a jury conviction?
  • How do you feel about how technology is being interjected into the law?

Key Lessons Learned:

  • There are more than 530 municipal courts in New Jersey, 21 counties, and 18 superior courts.

 Criminal Law

  • There’s a lot of excitement in criminal law, and it lends itself to being able to operate a solo business.
  • In criminal law, you might need to show up to court 10-12 times, which means you’re not in your office to facilitate your solo operating.
  • When it comes to criminal law, as a lawyer, you are the commodity and product when it comes to securing new clients.
  • The best way for defense lawyers to get new business is via word of mouth from a client you’ve already taken good care of.
  • A lot of Tom’s criminal law cases center around drugs; getting drugs, selling drugs, and people committing crimes to be able to afford drugs.

 Plea Bargaining and Trying a Case

  • Trying a case is where you put your faith in the jury system, where 12 members of the public decide your fate.
  • It is up to the prosecution or the state to prove you guilty as to each element of each offence.
  • If you are not happy with the plea offer you have or if you didn’t commit the offence, then that’s when you’d consider going to trial.
  • Plea-bargaining is when your defense attorney, the prosecutor, and you, in conjunction with your attorney, choose what you can live with in terms of working the case out.
  • Statically, 90-95% of cases are via plea-bargaining.

Jury Cases

  • 8 out of 10 times the jury gets it right as long as the facts are presented properly. The jury is able to discern creditability issues presented to them.
  • Economics play a massive part in jury cases. If you have the ability to hire the best expert, you will have a better chance of prevailing. In many cases, it comes down to a battle of the experts.
  • The jury selection process involves 27 questions, and you hope that people give a candid response so you’ll be able to weed out the people who have an appearance of bias. It only works if the jurors take their role seriously.

 Criminal Court, Quasi Criminal Court, and Superior Court 

  • The difference is the level of authority and jurisdiction that municipal courts have.
  • Municipal courts don’t have jurisdiction to handle crimes of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th degree (felonies).
  • They only have autonomy over disorderly persons offences, which are akin to misdemeanors.
  • Municipal courts have jurisdiction over all title 39, which are motor vehicles as well as some fishing and game.
  • The big difference is that the exposure for the same case in terms of incarceration is up to 6 months; as a result, you are only entitled to a bench trial where the judge sits as your jury.
  • There are no juries at a municipal level; it is the judge who will make the call.
  • Tom believes people should be judged by a jury of their peers as the prosecutor has to then convince 12 people rather than 1 person.
  • The chances are greater with a jury trial from the defendant’s perspective.

Grand Jury Indictment vs. Jury Conviction

  • In New Jersey, on the Grand Jury, there is a panel of 23 members, and they hear evidence presented by the prosecutor targeting certain people for certain offenses.
  • The standard of proof for the New Jersey Grand Jury is: was there an offense committed, and was this person involved?
  • It is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt but probable cause, which is some evidence that a person may or may not have been involved.
  • The downside is that a defendant doesn’t have a right to an attorney. If a defendant wants to testify, it’s up to the prosecutor.
  • Indictment is basically formalizing charges that the police handed out to a person at the scene. There are no rules of evidence.
  • This is a one-sided presentation of the facts from a prosecutor’s perspective.
  • The regular trial is a 12-member jury that will make the final decision in these cases.

Technology and the Law

  • Technology creates a lot of evidence.
  • A lot of defendants are getting convicted due to technology, but it also helps those who are not guilty.
  • If the ultimate goal is to get to the truth of the matter, then technology is helping in that respect.
  • The concern is that technology can be manipulated to give you the answer you are looking for.
  • A lot of people still don’t understand that when you put things on the internet, it is there forever, and it is not protected.

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Links to Resources Mentioned

Jersey Criminal Lawyer


96 West Main Street, Freehold New Jersey 07728


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 What part does technology play in criminal law? Find out w/ @EsqMartin & Ken Thayer @gaylordpoppllc

Want to know what it’s really like to be a criminal lawyer? Find out w/ @EsqMartin & Ken Thayer @gaylordpoppllc  

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