Friday, April 17, 2015

Rare Appellate Division Case Which Debunks Often Used Municipal Court Rational for Finding Defendant Guilty of Traffic Violation

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

A very interesting case was recently decided by the appellate division, State v. Duque, (unpublished decided April 6, 2015), in which the panel held that the rational used to find the defendant guilty of a traffic violation was incorrect, and accordingly, reversed the conviction.

In this case the Bergenfield municipal judge found the defendant guilty because he found the police officer credible.  Specifically, the municipal court judge held that he was familiar with the officer from other cases and because the officer had no motive to issue an erroneous charge against the defendant.  However, the municipal court judge did not address the fact that the police officer might have been mistaken, and why the evidence presented by the defendant, through testimony, and pictures was not persuasive.  As the court held, “The first of these reasons was an improper consideration by the trial court, and the second not sufficient by itself to reach a credibility determination in favor of the officer.”

In appellate panel went on to state that the defendant in this case, “had neither an opportunity to challenge the officer's testimony in other cases nor the ability to prove herself also a credible witness in the judge's eyes over the course of a number of different matters. In addition, the fact that a charge was brought by the officer does not in itself lend credibility to the testimony that supports that charge. Such a basis for judging credibility flies in the face of the presumption of innocence and the prosecution's burden to prove the charge beyond a reasonable doubt. See State v. Dively, 92 N.J. 573, 585 (1983).”
This is a great decision because municipal court traffic attorneys have experienced hundreds of cases in which the municipal court judge seeking away to find a defendant guilty in spite of overwhelming evidence that the police officer was lying or mistaken, would simply use these two standard excuses to find the defendant guilty.

The Law Office of Vincent J. Sanzone, Jr., Esq., is not a high-volume practice.  Attorney Sanzone does not accept every case, because I am personally responsible for all aspects of each case.  I take a limited number of clients, so that each criminal and traffic case receives the time and attention needed to produce the best legal work possible. Also, by only taking a limited number of cases at any given time, provides me the opportunity to explain the legal process, the law, an the strategies with which each aspect of the process will be addressed.

Law Office of Vincent J. Sanzone, Jr.
P.O. Box 261
277 North Broad Street
Elizabeth, N.J. 07207
(908) 354-7006

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