New Jersey’s Prescription Monitoring Program and Oxycodone Distribution Conspiracy
State v. Stoveken:
Submitted by New Jersey Drug Crime Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.
The pertinent issue in this case was whether a grand jury subpoena was sufficient to access prescription drug information maintained in New Jersey’s Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP). Defendants, along with others, were involved in a conspiracy to distribute oxycodone. During an investigation of the conspiracy, the state issued subpoenas to the administrator of New Jersey’s Prescription Monitoring Program. Defendants moved to suppress evidence recovered from those subpoenas, but the trial court denied the motions and found that the subpoenas were valid because they were made returnable to the grand jury on specific days when the grand jury was sitting. Defendants ultimately pled guilty to second-degree conspiracy to distribute oxycodone and second-degree distribution of oxycodone.
On appeal, defendants challenged the validity of the subpoenas to PMP. They argued that the subpoenas were not actually issued by a grand jury but were instead issued by prosecutors and detectives in the attorney general’s office. Defendants also argued that even if the subpoenas were issued by a grand jury, the state constitution required a finding of probable cause before a subpoena could access information maintained by the PMP.
The appellate court rejected defendants’ arguments and affirmed their convictions. They held that a properly issued grand jury subpoena is sufficient to obtain information concerning an investigation into a prescriber. The court also rejected one defendant’s challenge to the denial of his application for admission to drug court. The court noted that grand juries were not required to initiate, process, or authorize the issuance of a subpoena; instead, a prosecutor can issue a subpoena in the name of the grand jury. The court detailed that there are three criteria required for a valid grand jury subpoena: (1) the existence of a grand jury investigation; (2) the identification of the nature and subject matter of the investigation; and (3) the subpoenaed materials must be returnable on a day when a grand jury is sitting and the subpoenaed individual must have an opportunity to appear before the grand jury. State v. McAllister, 184 N.J. 17, 34-35 (2005).
The appellate court further held that the information obtained by the subpoena need only be returnable on a day when the grand jury is sitting. The court also distinguished that grand jury subpoenas could be issued without needing to establish probable cause, nor do a prosecutor’s representations need to be set forth in a certificate or affidavit. The court held that the legislature, when adopting the subpoena requirement for the PMP, was aware of the validity and expansive authority of grand jury subpoenas, and so the court construed the PMP statute accordingly. Therefore, the court found that the subpoenas issued in this case were valid grand jury subpoenas.
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