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Jersey Trial Court Erred in Giving Intoxication Defense to Jury


by in DWI Defense

The Appellate Division recently reversed the criminal conviction of this defendant after holding that the trial court should not have given the jury a charge on intoxication over the objection of defense counsel.

State v. R.T., ? N.J. Super. ?, 2009 N.J. Super. LEXIS 255 (December 17, 2009) – Convictions reversed, dissent by Judge Espinosa. “In this appeal we consider primarily whether defendant’s right to a fair trial was prejudiced by the court charging the jury with intoxication as possibly negating an element of the crime, over defendant’s objection. Finding error, we reverse and remand for a new trial….

In summation, the defense took the position that defendant did not commit the offenses and focused primarily on seeking to impugn the credibility of L.T. and his mother, including noting inconsistencies in the child’s testimony and her conviction for child endangerment.

Counsel also commented generally on the problems inherent in the police interrogation that was only partially audiotaped and noted Hunsinger’s suggestion to defendant that he was drunk.

An intoxication defense was not asserted explicitly or implicitly…. The facts of the present case do not clearly indicate a rational basis for the conclusion that defendant suffered from such a ‘prostration of faculties’ as to render him incapable of forming the requisite mental state to commit the crimes….

Not only did the facts not clearly indicate the appropriateness of the intoxication charge, but the instruction impermissibly interfered with defendant’s chosen trial strategy as clearly articulated to the court during the charge conference. Our courts have expressed a general need to refrain from interfering with defense counsel’s strategy.” (Michael Confusione, Designated Counsel)

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