Articles Posted in Supreme Court of New Jersey

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In New Jersey, juveniles adjudicated delinquent of certain sex offenses were barred for life from seeking relief from the registration and community notification provisions of Megan’s Law. That categorical lifetime bar cannot be lifted, even when the juvenile becomes an adult and poses no public safety risk, is fully rehabilitated, and is a fully productive member of society. Defendant C.K. was adjudicated delinquent for sex offenses committed more than two decades ago and challenged the constitutionality of N.J.S.A. 2C:7-2(g)’s permanent lifetime registration and notification requirements as applied to juveniles. After review of the specific facts of this case, the New Jersey Supreme Court concluded subsection (g)’s lifetime registration and notification requirements as applied to juveniles violated the substantive due process guarantee of Article I, Paragraph 1 of the New Jersey Constitution. “Permanently barring juveniles who have committed certain sex offenses from petitioning for relief from the Megan’s Law requirements bears no rational relationship to a legitimate governmental objective.” The Court determined that in the absence of subsection (g), N.J.S.A. 2C:7-2(f) provided the original safeguard incorporated into Megan’s Law, and a criminal defendant may petition to be released from registration and notification requirements when a superior court judge is persuaded the defendant has been offense-free and does not likely pose a societal risk after a fifteen-year look-back period. Defendant may apply for termination from the Megan’s Law requirements fifteen years from the date of his juvenile adjudication, and be relieved of those requirements provided he meets the standards set forth in N.J.S.A. 2C:7-2(f). View "New Jersey in the Interest of C.K." on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the New Jersey Supreme Court’s review centered on whether defendant Todd Dorn’s right to a grand jury presentment under the New Jersey Constitution was violated when the trial court permitted the State, on the eve of trial, to increase the charge in count two of defendant’s indictment from a third-degree to a second-degree drug offense. The Court also considered whether it was proper for the trial court to admit into evidence a copy of a map showing that defendant’s home was within 500 feet of public housing, a public park, or public building. The Supreme Court concluded the amendment to count two of defendant’s indictment was a violation of defendant’s right to grand jury presentment under the New Jersey Constitution, and remanded the conviction on count two to the trial court. The Court also found defendant waived his right to object to the map’s authentication. View "New Jersey v. Dor" on Justia Law

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In March 2012, New Jersey State Trooper John Faust pulled over a 2002 Mercury Sable with a damaged taillight on Interstate 295. The driver, Shonsheray Chandler, had changed lanes without signaling. There were passengers in Chandler’s car: her six-year-old daughter, who was in the back seat, and defendant Malcolm Hagans, sitting in the front passenger seat. Faust smelled the odor of burnt marijuana in the vehicle. Faust ultimately arrested defendant, handcuffed him, called for back-up, and administered Miranda warnings. Faust also handcuffed Chandler and placed her in the backseat of his police vehicle. Chandler denied knowing defendant had marijuana on him and denied that she had been smoking marijuana in the car. Faust requested Chandler consent to a search of her vehicle. Faust asked whether she would give consent, and Chandler responded “no.” Faust then discussed his next steps: “I know, but at this time . . . we are going to apply for a search warrant, okay, and that is kinda going to prolong the inevitable. I would just like it to be easier.” Chandler replied, “Go ahead.” Faust then inquired, “What’s that ma’am?,” to which Chandler repeated “Go ahead.” Faust asked, “Are you sure?” Chandler answered, “Yeah.” Faust countered, “So you’re saying yes?” Chandler responded, “Yes.” The issue that exchange presented for the New Jersey Supreme Court was whether Chandler’s consent was valid after she initially denied the officer’s request to search it. The Supreme Court found that because the trial court’s determination that the driver ultimately knowingly and voluntarily gave consent to search is supported by sufficient credible evidence, the trial court properly denied defendant’s motion to suppress the evidence seized during the search. View "New Jersey v. Hagans" on Justia Law

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The New Jersey Supreme Court found that counsel for both sides raised an intriguing question in this case: whether an identification made by a law enforcement officer should be tested by the same standards that apply to a civilian. The State presented strong evidence that defendant Dorian Pressley distributed cocaine. According to the testimony at trial, defendant sold two vials of cocaine directly to an undercover detective. At the end of the face-to-face exchange, defendant gave the detective his phone number and told her to store the number under the first three letters of his name. A second officer observed the transaction. Immediately after the sale, the undercover officer transmitted a description of defendant to a supervisor. The second officer also radioed information about defendant’s movements. About four blocks from where the sale took place, a third officer stopped defendant, who matched the description. The officer realized he knew the suspect and let him go to protect the ongoing undercover operation. Back at headquarters, the third officer printed a photo of defendant. The undercover detective also returned to headquarters. Within one hour of the transaction, she viewed the single photo of defendant and said she was certain that the individual in the picture had sold her the two vials. Defendant was arrested and convicted after trial of third-degree possession of heroin, third-degree distribution of cocaine, and third-degree distribution of cocaine within 1000 feet of a school. On appeal, defendant argued that the trial court should have held a pretrial hearing to evaluate the reliability of the identification. After review, the New Jersey Supreme Court found that it could not determine whether part or all of the protections outlined in New Jersey v. Henderson, 208 N.J. 208 (2011) should apply to identifications made by law enforcement officers: “Even if the trial judge in this case had held a pretrial hearing, though, it is difficult to imagine that the identification would have been suppressed. Although showups are inherently suggestive, ‘the risk of misidentification is not heightened if a showup is conducted’ within two hours of an event. Here, the identification took place within an hour. In addition, the trial judge gave the jury a full instruction on identification evidence, consistent with Henderson and the model jury charge.” The Court affirmed the Appellate Division and upheld defendant’s convictions. View "New Jersey v. Pressley" on Justia Law

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In 2012, Defendant Donnell Jones and a female accomplice committed an armed robbery against a woman and her young daughter in a New Brunswick park. Defendant pleaded guilty to first-degree armed robbery and second-degree certain persons not to have weapons. In exchange, the State agreed to dismiss other charges. The State further agreed to recommend a sentence of fifteen years’ imprisonment on the armed-robbery charge, subject to an eighty-five percent parole disqualifier and five years’ parole supervision. That sentence would run concurrently with a seven-year sentence, subject to five years of parole ineligibility, on the certain-persons charge. At sentencing, the court asked defendant whether he wanted to say anything. Defendant stated, “First of all, I am guilty . . . of my crime, a hundred percent guilty. Am I sorry for what I did? No. I’m not.” The court asked defendant, “You’re not sorry?” and a short exchange followed, during which defendant said that the victim “was not the target.” Defendant stated, “Other than that, then that’s it.” The prosecutor finished her summation; defendant did not speak again nor did he or his counsel ask to speak again. The court found three aggravating factors and no mitigating factors. Although defendant was extended-term eligible, the sentences imposed by the court adhered precisely to defendant’s plea bargain. Defendant did not file a direct appeal. He filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief (PCR) alleging ineffective assistance of counsel. Defendant sought to have his case remanded for resentencing because the sentencing court:(1) failed to provide a statement of reasons for aggravating factor nine; (2) wrongly considered defendant’s arrest history; and (3) violated his right to allocute and to present mitigating information. Defendant petitioned the New Jersey Supreme Court to review his claim that his right to allocute and present mitigating information was violated. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed his sentence. View "New Jersey v. Jones" on Justia Law

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On December 5, 2010, Thomas Carbin was stabbed to death. The Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office began interviewing individuals to obtain information about Carbin and learned that defendant Lori Hummel was in Carbin’s “circle of acquaintances.” Investigator Krohn discovered that defendant had two outstanding traffic bench warrants. Investigator Krohn advised defendant that he was going to bring her to the police station for the traffic warrants but assured her that she would be released on her own recognizance. Detectives began asking defendant substantive questions without advising her of her Miranda rights. Defendant resisted answering any more questions, stating she thought she wanted to get a lawyer. Detectives thereafter notified defendant she had an outstanding warrant. Defendant asked several times whether she could make a phone call to her lawyer. One detective took defendant’s purse from the table, and defendant stated that she did not like that he had her pocketbook. Defendant was then notified she was “in custody,” at that point, detectives began taking everything out of defendant’s purse and placing each item on the table in the interrogation room. Police arrested defendant three days later; a Grand Jury ultimately returned an indictment, charging defendant with first-degree murder; first-degree felony murder; first-degree robbery; third-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose; and fourth-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose. Later, third-degree conspiracy to distribute a controlled dangerous substance (CDS) was added to defendant’s list of charges. Defendant waived her right to an indictment in exchange for the State amending her first-degree murder charge to first-degree aggravated manslaughter. The indictment and accusation were then consolidated for disposition. Defendant moved to suppress her statements to police and the physical evidence obtained during her 2010 interrogation. After review, the New Jersey Supreme Court found no valid inventory search, affirming the Appellate Division’s determination that the evidence seized during the search should have been suppressed. The Court remanded to permit defendant to withdraw her guilty plea and continue at the trial court level or, in the alternative, to proceed before a PCR court on other issues she has preserved. View "New Jersey v. Hummel" on Justia Law

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On December 5, 2010, Thomas Carbin was stabbed to death. The Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office began interviewing individuals to obtain information about Carbin and learned that defendant Lori Hummel was in Carbin’s “circle of acquaintances.” Investigator Krohn discovered that defendant had two outstanding traffic bench warrants. Investigator Krohn advised defendant that he was going to bring her to the police station for the traffic warrants but assured her that she would be released on her own recognizance. Detectives began asking defendant substantive questions without advising her of her Miranda rights. Defendant resisted answering any more questions, stating she thought she wanted to get a lawyer. Detectives thereafter notified defendant she had an outstanding warrant. Defendant asked several times whether she could make a phone call to her lawyer. One detective took defendant’s purse from the table, and defendant stated that she did not like that he had her pocketbook. Defendant was then notified she was “in custody,” at that point, detectives began taking everything out of defendant’s purse and placing each item on the table in the interrogation room. Police arrested defendant three days later; a Grand Jury ultimately returned an indictment, charging defendant with first-degree murder; first-degree felony murder; first-degree robbery; third-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose; and fourth-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose. Later, third-degree conspiracy to distribute a controlled dangerous substance (CDS) was added to defendant’s list of charges. Defendant waived her right to an indictment in exchange for the State amending her first-degree murder charge to first-degree aggravated manslaughter. The indictment and accusation were then consolidated for disposition. Defendant moved to suppress her statements to police and the physical evidence obtained during her 2010 interrogation. After review, the New Jersey Supreme Court found no valid inventory search, affirming the Appellate Division’s determination that the evidence seized during the search should have been suppressed. The Court remanded to permit defendant to withdraw her guilty plea and continue at the trial court level or, in the alternative, to proceed before a PCR court on other issues she has preserved. View "New Jersey v. Hummel" on Justia Law

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In this appeal, the issue presented for the New Jersey Supreme Court’s consideration was whether defendant Noah Mosley’s due process rights were violated because the State relied on hearsay evidence to prove the violation of probation (VOP) charge filed against him. Defendant’s VOP hearing was “atypical.” He was charged with violating probation because new criminal charges were filed against him; however, the new criminal charges had not yet been adjudicated when the State requested that the court proceed and sentence defendant on the VOP. At the VOP hearing, the State advanced hearsay evidence to substantiate the new criminal charges. The State did not produce the officer who had witnessed the alleged new criminal acts for which defendant was later identified and charged as the perpetrator. Nor did the State provide justification for that failure, relying on the proposition that hearsay is admissible in probation violation hearings. The Appellate Division has previously determined it “fair and practical” for a court to admit “reliable hearsay evidence” in such hearings. Building on the “sound legal foundation” of New Jersey v. Reyes, 207 N.J. Super. 126 (App. Div. 1986), the Supreme Court held hearsay was generally admissible in a VOP hearing. When assessing the State’s ability to rely on hearsay to satisfy its proof obligation without contravening a defendant’s due process rights, a court fundamentally should consider the State’s reasons for relying on hearsay forms of evidence and the reliability of the evidence for its proposed purpose. Because here, the hearsay presented was insufficient to prove the new underlying substantive offense that was the premise for defendant’s probation violation and sentence. The Court therefore reversed the Appellate Division judgment that upheld defendant’s probation violation. View "New Jersey v. Mosley" on Justia Law

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In this appeal, the issue presented for the New Jersey Supreme Court’s consideration was whether defendant Noah Mosley’s due process rights were violated because the State relied on hearsay evidence to prove the violation of probation (VOP) charge filed against him. Defendant’s VOP hearing was “atypical.” He was charged with violating probation because new criminal charges were filed against him; however, the new criminal charges had not yet been adjudicated when the State requested that the court proceed and sentence defendant on the VOP. At the VOP hearing, the State advanced hearsay evidence to substantiate the new criminal charges. The State did not produce the officer who had witnessed the alleged new criminal acts for which defendant was later identified and charged as the perpetrator. Nor did the State provide justification for that failure, relying on the proposition that hearsay is admissible in probation violation hearings. The Appellate Division has previously determined it “fair and practical” for a court to admit “reliable hearsay evidence” in such hearings. Building on the “sound legal foundation” of New Jersey v. Reyes, 207 N.J. Super. 126 (App. Div. 1986), the Supreme Court held hearsay was generally admissible in a VOP hearing. When assessing the State’s ability to rely on hearsay to satisfy its proof obligation without contravening a defendant’s due process rights, a court fundamentally should consider the State’s reasons for relying on hearsay forms of evidence and the reliability of the evidence for its proposed purpose. Because here, the hearsay presented was insufficient to prove the new underlying substantive offense that was the premise for defendant’s probation violation and sentence. The Court therefore reversed the Appellate Division judgment that upheld defendant’s probation violation. View "New Jersey v. Mosley" on Justia Law

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This appeal raised the question of whether, in cases involving a search warrant, Rule 3:4-2(c)(1)(B) required the State to produce the affidavit underlying the warrant prior to a pretrial detention hearing pursuant to the Criminal Justice Reform Act (CJRA), N.J.S.A. 2A:162-15 to -26. During defendant Melvin Dickerson’s pretrial detention hearing, the court denied the State’s motion for pretrial detention. Relying on Rule 3:4-2(c)(1)(B), the court ordered defendant released subject to conditions as a discovery sanction for the State’s failure to produce the search warrant affidavit. On interlocutory appeal, the Appellate Division agreed that the State was obliged to produce the affidavit but held that the trial court erred by releasing defendant as a discovery sanction. Therefore, the Appellate Division directed the State to produce the affidavit and remanded for a full pretrial detention hearing. After review, the New Jersey Supreme Court reversed the Appellate Division’s judgment ordering production of the search warrant affidavit, and also found no evidence or allegation of misconduct on the part of the State justifying discovery sanctions for failure to produce the search warrant affidavit. Thus, the Court agreed with the Appellate Division that the pretrial release of defendant was in error and that the case should be remanded for a full pretrial detention hearing. View "New Jersey v. Dickerson" on Justia Law