Defendant Threatened to Commit a Crime of Violence Upon the Officers by Infecting Them With COVID-19

State of New Jersey v. Zharia Young

Docket No. A-3342-21

Decided November 14, 2022

Submitted by New Jersey DWI Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.

In a recent unpublished opinion, the Appellate Court of New Jersey decided defendant’s appeal of the denial of her motion to dismiss the indictment charging her with third-degree Terroristic Threats.

In April 2020, officers responded to a motor vehicle accident where they observed two disabled vehicles lodged in trees. Emergency medical services members were attempting to treat defendant, but he was uncooperative and refused treatment. Officers noticed that defendant had an odor of alcohol on her breath and her eyes were watery and bloodshot when they attempted to take her statement. Defendant advised the officers that she had not consumed alcohol, but later failed a field sobriety test. At that point, defendant was advised she was under arrest. Defendant resisted being handcuffed and subsequently began screaming profanities at the officers, kicked an officer in the chest as she was being placed in the police vehicle, repeatedly coughed on and verbally threatened officers with being exposed and infected with the COVID-19 virus. For perspective, this event took place nearly one month after the President of the United States declared COVID-19 a national emergency.

Defendant later disclosed to a State Police detective through a phone call that she was a healthcare worker who had been displaying COVID-19 symptoms for the past several days but refused to share her test results and stated that she hoped the troopers “get infected.” Following this telephone call, the detective immediately called the Prosecutor’s Office to authorize charges for Terroristic Threats and violating Executive Oder No. 107 (not an issue before the Appellate Court). Defendant was subsequently indicted on third-degree Terroristic Threats. Defendant then filed a motion to dismiss the indictment, arguing that it was impossible to know whether the grand jury indicted for “purpose to terrorize another” or under the reckless disregard portion of the statute. At oral argument before the motion judge, defendant asserted the court in State v. Fair struck down the entire statute based on the fact the court found the statute to be unconstitutionally overbroad in violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution. The trial court was unpersuaded by defendant’s argument and denied her motion, reasoning that the phrase ‘reckless disregard of the risk of causing terror’ will be stricken from the indictment. However, the State could seek to convict defendant of making terroristic threats by proving defendant acted with the purpose of causing terror. Defendant subsequently appealed.

On appeal, defendant contended that the Terroristic Threats statute unconstitutional because it is entirely overbroad and none of its aspects are severable. Defendant also argued that even if the statute was severable, there was no way to tell whether a majority of the grand jurors indicted her on the remainder of the charge. The Appellate Court affirmed the trial court’s ruling, determining that the court in Fair did not entirely invalidate the statute. That court merely remanded the case for a new trial regarding those parts of the Terroristic Threats statute that are not constitutionally overbroad. The Appellate Court also determined that the indictment was not deficient because it contained the relevant provision of the statute and the alleged victims of the crime. The indictment sufficiently alleged that defendant threatened to commit a crime of violence upon the officers with the purpose to terrorize them by alleging that she threatened to assault the officers by infecting them with COVID-19. The court also stated that defendant’s actions were not hyperbole because she actually worked in healthcare and claimed to be experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.

At Hark & Hark, we are experienced attorneys who represent clients for appeals in Superior Court for issues like the previously discussed case pertaining to motions to dismiss indictments. 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.

We offer payment plan options to clients financially incapable of providing full payment upfront. If you are facing a similar situation to that of the defendant in this case, please call us to discuss the matter. At Hark & Hark, we represent clients for any case in any county in New Jersey including Atlantic County, Bergen County, Burlington County, Camden County, Cape May County, Cumberland County, Essex County, Gloucester County, Hudson County, Hunterdon County, Mercer County, Middlesex County, Monmouth County, Morris County, Ocean County, Passaic County, Salem County, Somerset County, Sussex County, Union County, and Warren County and any town including Audubon, Gloucester City, Oaklyn, Audubon Park, Gloucester Township, Pennsauken, Barrington, Haddon Heights, Pine Hill, Bellmawr, Haddon Township, Pine Valley, Berlin Borough, Haddonfield, Runnemede, Berlin Township, Hi-Nella, Somerdale, Brooklawn, Laurel Springs, Stratford, Camden, Lawnside, Voorhees, Cherry Hill, Lindenwold, Waterford, Chesilhurst, Magnolia, Winslow, Clementon, Merchantville, Woodlynne, Collingswood, Mt. Ephraim, and Gibbsboro.



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Jeffrey Hark is a New Jersey Civil and Criminal Lawyer.

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