Possession Conviction Reversed On Right To Remain Silent
- April 17, 2015
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Jamaal Shockley was indicted for third-degree possession of cocaine, a controlled dangerous substance (CDS) (N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10(a)(1)); third-degree possession of cocaine, a CDS, with intent to distribute (N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5(a)(1)); and second-degree eluding police (N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2(b)) after he fled from police when they attempted to get him to stop while he was riding a dirt bike. Shockley fled and the pursuit continued until he fell off the motorcycle and was tackled by officers while attempting to run away. The defendant was patted down for weapons at the scene, his jacket was searched at the police department and his shoes and jacket were again checked prior to leaving the hospital after treatment. While being booked into the county jail, the defendant was again patted down before removing his clothes. Each of the prior searches was negative for weapons or contraband. After Shockley had removed his clothing as part of processing and was already lodged in jail, corrections officer Brooks again searched his clothing outside of his presence and discovered a bag containing 14 bags of cocaine within another small bag in the pocket of the defendant’s sweatshirt. In State v. Shockley, the defendant was found guilty of possession of a CDS and eluding police. Shockley was sentenced to 8 years with 4 years of parole ineligibility for the eluding charge and a concurrent 6 year term with 3 years of parole ineligibility for the CDS charges. The defendant appealed on multiple grounds including that corrections officer Brooks testified regarding Shockley’s silence when notified by Brooks that the cocaine had been discovered. Although the defendant did not object to Brooks’ testimony at trial, reversal is required if it was clearly capable of producing an unjust result. State v. Taffaro, 195 N. J. 442 (2008). The Appellate Division looked to State v. Stas, 212 N.J. 37, 59 (2012) wherein the court considered the privilege against self-incrimination as set forth in N.J.S.A. 2A:84A-19 and N.J.R.E. 503. The court cited Doyle v. Ohio, 426 U.S. 610, 618-19, 96 S. Ct. 2240, 2245, 49 L. Ed.2d 91, 98 (1976) with regard to the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution and the protection it offers both pre and post-arrest silence. In NJ, State v. Brown, 118 N.J. 595, 610 (1990) affords an accused the right to remain silent while “in custody or under interrogation.” The NJ Appellate Division found the testimony to be plain error as it offered no probative value and was clearly in violation of Shockley’s rights to remain silent and a fair trial. The matter was reversed and remanded for a new trial. A drug related conviction in NJ can have serious and lasting consequences including prison, loss of license, substantial fines and the stigma of the conviction or plea can result in the loss of certain employment or educational opportunities. If you are facing charges of use, possession or distribution of CDS, it is critical you consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately to protect your rights. For more information about prescription or non-prescription drug charges for use possession or distribution, controlled dangerous substances in a motor vehicle, DUI and other criminal and serious municipal court matters visit HeatherDarlingLawyer.com. This blog is for informational purposes and not intended to replace the advice of an attorney.