Saturday, March 29, 2014

Recent Unpublished Opinion Reverses Sentencing Court’s Decision to Forfeit Public Office

Prepared as a Public Service to the People by the Law Office of Vincent J. Sanzone, Jr., Esq.


Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2:51-2d any criminal conviction which touches his or her public employment will lead to permanent forfeiture of public office, position or employment.  This is a fact sensitive question and often the prosecutor will argue that the commission of the crime did involve the defendant’s employment, which is often not the case.

A recent case is State v. Ruffin (unpublished appellate division case), was a case in which I represented the defendant at trial.  The trial judge (James F. Mulvihill) ruled against the defendant  and held that Ms. Ruffin a DYFS worker, would have to forfeit her position with that agency, or any other future public employment based on that conviction. At the time of the offense Ms. Ruffin was not working and the alleged offense had nothing to do with her employment.  In spite of those facts, the court nevertheless agreed with the prosecutor's position.

In reversing this portion of the decision the appellate division after having the case remanded back from the Supreme Court cited, State v. Hupka, 203 N.J. 222 (2010), and the standards set forth in N.J.S.A. 2C:51-2d. 

A copy of this opinion is attached hereto:

STATE OF NEW JERSEY vs. TAMICA RUFFIN (Unpublished Appellate Division, February 14, 2014)

Before Judges Simonelli and Fasciale.

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County, Indictment No. 09-01-0033.
Defendant Tamica Ruffin appeals from that part of the August 25, 2009 judgment of conviction (JOC) that sentenced her to a permanent forfeiture of public office, position, or employment pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:51-2d. We reverse and remand for entry of an amended JOC removing this part of defendant's sentence.
While driving in Edison, defendant became involved in an incident with the driver of another vehicle. Defendant, who was employed by the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services (Division) at the time, displayed a knife during the incident and threatened the driver.

Following a jury trial, defendant was convicted of harassment, a disorderly persons offense, N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4; fourth-degree unlawful possession of a weapon, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5d; and third-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4d. The trial judge imposed a five-year probationary term, and a 364-day term of incarceration, which was suspended. The judge also imposed a permanent forfeiture of public office, position, or employment pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2:51-2d.

Defendant appealed her conviction and the forfeiture of public office part of her sentence. We affirmed and determined that because defendant committed the offenses while employed by the Division, the judge properly barred her from holding public office. State v. Ruffin, No. A-0672-09 (App. Div. Nov. 20, 2012) (slip op. at 9). Our Supreme Court granted defendant's petition for certification and remanded for reconsideration of defendant's permanent forfeiture of public office in light of State v. Hupka, 203 N.J. 222 (2010), and the standards set forth in N.J.S.A. 2C:51-2d. State v. Ruffin, 215 N.J. 482 (2013).

On remand, the State concedes that because defendant's offenses did not involve or touch her public office, position, or employment with the Division, a permanent forfeiture is improper. See Hupka, supra, 203 N.J. at 239; N.J.S.A. 2C:51-2d. The State requests that the JOC be amended to remove this part of defendant's sentence.

Defendant's sentence of a permanent forfeiture of public office, 
position, or employment is reversed, and this matter is remanded for entry of an amended JOC removing that part of the sentence.

Law Office of Vincent J. Sanzone, Jr., Esq.
Elizabeth, N.J. 
(908) 354-7006

"It is easy live but hard work to live right."  Vincent J. Sanzone, Jr.







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