2 Individuals Posed as Police Officers and Attempted to Rob Two Victims
Docket No. A-0587-20
Decided November 16, 2022
Submitted by New Jersey Criminal Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark
In a recent unpublished opinion, the Appellate Court of New Jersey decided defendant’s appeal of his convictions for robbery, shoplifting, criminal mischief, and possession of controlled dangerous substances (CDS).
This case arose out of three separate incidents that resulted in three separate indictments. In May 2018, defendant and another individual posed as police officers and attempted to rob two victims. They were unsuccessful, and defendant was charged with two counts of second-degree robbery.
In July 2018, defendant was observed by a Wal-Mart employee attempting to steal over $900 worth of merchandise. When he was approached by employees, defendant fled the store, dropped the merchandise, and went to his vehicle. Defendant than tried to evade the employees en route after him, and ended up hitting a car and narrowly missing hitting a witness. Defendant was charged with third-degree shoplifting and fourth-degree criminal mischief.
Also in July 2018, defendant was pulled over for a motor vehicle offense and the officer on scene subsequently discovered defendant had a warrant out for his arrest for the shoplifting incident. Defendant was then arrested. A search incident to arrest and an inventory search of the vehicle revealed CDS on defendant’s person and a “hatchet-style” knife in the driver-side door, respectively. Defendant was charged with third-degree possession of CDS and fourth-degree unlawful possession of a weapon.
Defendant was convicted by a jury of the shoplifting and criminal mischief charges in March 2020 and pled guilty to the robbery and possession of CDS charges. The remaining charges were dismissed. Defendant was sentenced to consecutive six-year prison terms for the shoplifting and robbery convictions. The sentences for the CDS and criminal mischief convictions were ordered to run concurrently with the six-year terms. Defendant appealed.
On appeal, defendant contended that his right to testify in his own defense was violated because he was precluded from testifying about his diminished capacity and was required to testify at a Rule 104 hearing before being permitted to testify at trial. Defendant also argued that the court committed structural error by rejecting mitigating factors before defendant was to speak at sentencing, and that his sentence was excessive because the court refused to find pertinent mitigating factors and did not consider the fairness of the overall sentence.
The Appellate Court of New Jersey determined that the record clearly demonstrated that defendant was not precluded from testifying at trial. The court determined that defendant was only precluded from offering inadmissible lay testimony concerning diagnoses of mental illness. As such, the Appellate Court concluded that the trial court did not commit error in limiting the scope of defendant’s testimony in support of a diminished capacity defense. Furthermore, the Appellate Court ruled that they agreed with defendant’s argument that that the court did not make specific findings with respect to mitigating factor six under N.J.S.A. 2C:44-1(b)(6) even though the trial court did in fact make specific findings with respect to many of the applicable aggravating and mitigating sentencing factors. The Appellate Court noted that the trial court also failed to make specific findings regarding the overall fairness of the consecutive sentences imposed. Thus, the matter was affirmed in part and remanded in part for the trial court to make its findings as to all applicable aggravating and mitigating circumstances and as to the overall fairness of imposing consecutive sentences based on the existing record.
At Hark & Hark, we are experienced attorneys who represent clients in Superior Court for issues like the previously discussed case pertaining to appealing a conviction. We work hard to ensure that our clients receive exceptional representation in order for them to receive the most favorable outcome in their case as a result.
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