Double Jeopardy: Part 1

by | Jun 19, 2017 | Blog, Criminal Law, Know Your Rights, New Jersey

On May 16, 2017, Justice Timpone wrote for a majority of the New Jersey Supreme Court in the case of State v. Rodney Miles. The case presents another example of Governor Christie’s appointees moving our state courts in a more pro-police direction at the expense of our civil liberties, with Justice Albin representing the lone dissenting voice.

In this appeal, the Court clarifies the methodology to be used in analyzing whether two offenses are the “same offense” for double jeopardy purposes. Since the 1980s, New Jersey courts have applied both the same-evidence test and the same-elements test articulated in Blockburger v. United States, 284 U.S. 299 (1932), in double jeopardy determinations. A finding that offenses met either test resulted in double jeopardy protection for the defendant.

In October 2010, the Camden County police arrested defendant for selling marijuana to an undercover police officer. Defendant was charged in a warrant complaint with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and possession of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS) with intent to distribute on or within 1000 feet of a school property.  In a separate municipal summons, defendant was charged with the disorderly-persons offense of possession of fifty grams or less of marijuana.  Those charges arose from the same attempted sale.

A grand jury returned an indictment charging defendant with the offenses in the warrant complaint.

Defendant then appeared pro se in municipal court to resolve the disorderly-persons offense. At some point before that video proceeding, the original municipal charge was amended to a different disorderly-persons offense— loitering to possess marijuana. Defendant asked the municipal court judge, “why they got me going to Superior Court for this, Your Honor?” The judge then responded that defendant was “not going to Superior Court for this,” but rather for an unrelated child support issue. Defendant then pled guilty to loitering to possess marijuana.

Thereafter, defendant moved to dismiss the Superior Court indictment on double-jeopardy grounds, arguing that prosecution on the possession charges was barred because he had already pled guilty to an offense that arose from the same conduct. The Superior Court denied defendant’s motion to dismiss, reasoning that prosecution on the indicted charges was not barred because it required proof of an additional element—proximity to a school.

Defendant pled guilty to possession of CDS with intent to distribute within 1000 feet of a school (the school-zone charge), but preserved his right to appeal the denial of the motion to dismiss.