Dismissal Of an Indictment Reversed Even Though the Defendant Had Been Deported
Appellate Docket No.: A-1543-20
Decided August 30, 2021
Submitted by New Jersey New Jersey Criminal Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark
In a recent unpublished opinion, the Appellate Division of New Jersey reversed a dismissal of an indictment even though the defendant had been deported and the witness to alleged domestic violence no longer wished to testify.
In State v. C.A.T-P, the State’s charges stem from an incident that occurred during the early morning hours of November 23, 2019, when officers from the North Plainfield Police Department responded to a local residence based upon a report of an assault potentially involving a handgun. The officers met with the victim, M.A.N-Z., who advised them that she lived with defendant, her boyfriend, and their infant child. She also informed the officers that defendant had taken the child to their neighbor’s apartment.
M.A.N-Z. stated that defendant physically assaulted her after her friend left the apartment earlier that night, and in response to her friend allegedly insulting defendant. She explained that while in the common hallway defendant pushed her against the wall and strangled her, obstructing her breathing. The officers observed visible marks on her neck, which they photographed.
After defendant unsuccessfully attempted to break down the bathroom door, he left the residence. At that point, M.A.NZ. left the bathroom where she encountered defendant who had returned to the apartment. Defendant allegedly retrieved a handgun from the bedroom, showed it to M.A.N-Z. and stated, “I have a gun.” M.A.N-Z. again fled to the bedroom, locked the door, and screamed for help.
Defendant was charged and indicted with 1) third-degree aggravated assault— strangulation, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b)(13); 2) third-degree aggravated assault— significant bodily injury, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b)(12); 3) fourth-degree hindering apprehension or prosecution, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-3(b)(2); and 4) fourth-degree unlawful possession of a prohibited device—hollow point bullets, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-3(f)(1).
The motion judge, on a motion by defendant, dismissed the indictment on two grounds. First, he concluded it was in the “interests of justice” to dismiss the charges as the State’s ability to establish defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt would “ultimately fail” because defendant was deported and not presently located in the United States and the victim, M.A.N-Z., expressed her intention not to testify against him. Second, the court noted that defendant was available for a “considerable amount of time” before being deported and the State failed to take appropriate measures to secure his appearance for trial prior to his removal from the United States.
The State appealed. The Appellate Division held that the trial court abused its discretion by anticipating the State’s case ahead of trial. The trial court failed to consider the true legal burden – that the State had made a prima facie showing as to each of the elements of the charges to the grand jury for the indictment. As a result, the Appellate Division reversed the dismissal.
If you or someone you know have been charged with any indictable offense or disorderly persons involving a domestic violence incident, contact the experienced attorney at Hark & Hark to ensure you are adequately defended, otherwise you could have negative impacts on your case like the defendant above.
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