Double Jeopardy: Part 2

by | Jun 21, 2017 | Blog, Criminal Law, Know Your Rights

On appeal, the Appellate Division remanded for a finding on the circumstances surrounding the amendment of the disorderly-persons offense. The panel noted that a plea to the original municipal charge, instead of the amended one, could have led to a different result after applying the double-jeopardy analysis.

On remand, the Superior Court found no direct evidence as to the circumstances surrounding the amendment, and the prosecutor represented that his office was not informed of defendant’s municipal court proceedings. Despite defendant’s expressed confusion during the municipal court plea hearing, the Superior Court concluded that the school-zone prosecution was not precluded by notions of fundamental fairness. It is perplexing that the municipal prosecutor could make such a claim in light of their access to court system computers and the statements made by the defendant before the municipal court. While it is common for municipal prosecutors to not take the time to enter the courtroom when a case resolves before the judge, their inaction should not be rewarded under the circumstances.

Defendant appealed again, arguing that double jeopardy barred prosecution on the school-zone charge. The Appellate Division agreed, finding that, although the second prosecution was not barred under the same-elements test, it was barred under the same-evidence test.

Our Supreme Court held that New Jersey now joins the majority of jurisdictions in returning to the Blockburger same-elements test as the sole test for determining what constitutes the “same offense” for purposes of double jeopardy. In the interest of justice, the Court applied both the same-elements test and the now-replaced same-evidence test in this case; going forward, for offenses committed after the issuance of this opinion, the same-elements test will serve as the singular framework for determining whether two charges are the same offense for purposes of double-jeopardy analysis. The New Jersey Supreme Court conducted the following analysis.