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New Jersey Criminal Appeal Highlights (Summer ’09)


by in Criminal Defense

The following New Jersey criminal appeal cases were decided by the New Jersey Superior Court – Appellate Division and New Jersey Supreme court over the summer of 2009.

Miranda Warnings:

On appeal in State v Wessels, 408 N.J. Super. 188 (App. Div. 2009), the New Jersey Appeals Court ruled on whether a break in custody to speak with a lawyer mandates a new set of Miranda warnings to be given to a criminal suspect. The panel held that under the facts of the case, the nine-day break in custody was long enough for the suspect to consult with a criminal defense attorney. As such, the police could reinitiate questioning after a valid waiver. Note that the United States States Supreme Court came to the opposite conclusion in Edwards v Arizona, 451 U.S. 477 (1991), finding that the defendant must initiate the second interview in order for interrogation to resume after a request to speak with a lawyer.

Right Against Self-Incrimination:

In the New Jersey criminal appeal State v. Baum, 199 N.J. 545 (2009), the New Jersey Supreme Court held decided whether a criminal defendant may assert a co-defenant’s Fifth Amendment right in order to suppress evidence. The Court held that the right is a personal one and cannot be vicariously claimed by a co-defendant.

Ineffective Assistance of Counsel:

On appeal in State v. Nunez-Valdez, 200 N.J. 129 (2009), the Supreme Court heard a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel made by a non-citizen. The defendant’s immigration status was unclear at the time of his criminal trial. He claimed that his New Jersey defense attorney failed to advise him that a guilty plea could lead to his deportation. The Court allowed the defendant to withdraw his guilty plea and set forth two new questions to be added to New Jersey court’s standard plea form. These are: 1) a guilty plea to a crime that would equate an “aggravated felon” under federal criminal law subjects the individual to deportation, and 2) The individual has the right to obtain legal advice from an immigration attorney regarding his status. New Jersey trial courts should also develop this information on the record.

New Jersey Bail:

On appeal in State v. Fajardo-Santos, 199 N.J. 529 (2009), the Supreme Court decided that a New Jersey criminal trial court may increase bail set for a defendant here illegally. However, in this case, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had already put a detainer on the defendant.

New Jersey Community Caretaking Exception:

In State v Bogan, 200 N.J. 61 (2009), the defendant molested a 14-year old New Jersey girl after offering a ride home from school. The girl led police to the apartment, where she said a young boy was also located. Police knocked on the door, which was answered by a young boy who stated that he was home alone. Police entered and located a man later identified as the defendant who had molested the girl. After being read Miranda warnings, the defendant gave an incriminating statement. He later argued in his appeal of his criminal conviction that his statement should have been suppressed since the initial entry of the apartment was illegal and without a warrant. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the police were properly exercising their community caretaking function after finding the boy home alone.

New Jersey Jury Charges:

In State v. Hill, the Supreme Court denounced a “Clawans” charge given to the jury by the trial judge. The defendant was arrested in Newark, New Jersey for robbery and conspiracy after allegedly robbing a store in Newark. His nephew and a co-defendant were also charged in the crime. During the trial, defense counsel told the jury that he would have called the nephew to testify but the nephew was unavailable. The court later instructed the jury that it could infer that the nephew’s testimony would have been incriminating. The Supreme Court reversed on appeal, holding that the charge placed an improper burden on the defendant to prove his innocence.

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