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State v. Pruser

Decided: August 20, 1941.

THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, DEFENDANT IN ERROR,
v.
KAROLA PRUSER, PLAINTIFF IN ERROR



On error to the Morris County Court of Quarter Sessions.

For the plaintiff in error, Scott M. Long, Jr.

For the state, John Drewen, assistant attorney-general (William Hegarty, prosecutor of the pleas, on the brief).

Before Brogan, Chief Justice, and Justices Parker and Perskie.

Perskie

The opinion of the court was delivered by

PERSKIE, J. The basic question requiring decision on the facts of this case, which involves unlawful registration and unlawful voting, is whether the trial judge misapplied, as claimed, the maxim -- ignorantia juris neminem excusat -- in denying the motion of plaintiff in error for an acquittal at the end of the state's case.

Plaintiff in error was convicted by a verdict of a jury, in the Morris County Court of Quarter Sessions, on an indictment found under the section of our election laws designated as N.J.S.A. 19:34-20.

The indictment consists of two counts. The first count charged that the plaintiff in error, late of the City of New York, at the general election held for the first district of Kinnelon, in the County of Morris, on November 8th, 1938, "did solicit the registering of her name on the registry list of said election district * * * then and there knowing that she was not a legal voter in such district, * * * that she had not resided in the State of New Jersey for a period of one year, nor in the County of Morris five months before said general election * * *." The second count charged that at the same time and place, the plaintiff in error "knowing that she was not a qualified voter, did vote at said general election, * * * then and there knowing that she had not resided in New Jersey for a year, nor in Morris County five months next before said general election * * *."

Concededly, the state's prosecution of the plaintiff in error was, and is, based upon the theory that the knowledge contemplated by the language of the statute, upon which the indictment was found, means knowledge of the facts which disqualified or disentitled plaintiff in error to register and to vote and not knowledge of the law applicable to those facts. The state "frankly asserts that in the trial of this indictment it was the state's theory that the offense charged is within the maxim -- ignorantia juris neminem excusat."

Pursuant to its theory, the presentation of the state's case was short.

A stipulation was offered and objected to, but the objection was withdrawn and the stipulation was read into the record. It stated that plaintiff in error registered on October 14th, 1938, in New York City for the election then pending, had been registered as residing at 1665 York avenue, had been thirteen years in this country, one year in the district and had certified to the truth of these facts over her own signature. The stipulation ...


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