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State v. Quatro

Decided: March 4, 1957.


Goldmann, Freund and Conford. The opinion of the court was delivered by Freund, J.A.D.


[44 NJSuper Page 123] Louis T. Quatro appeals from an order denying his application for correction of sentence on Indictment No. 291, 1952 term, Essex County Grand Jury. He had been tried on nine indictments containing a total of

21 counts, consolidated by consent for trial. The jury foreman announced a general verdict of "guilty upon each of the nine counts" which the court molded to read: "guilty upon each of the nine (9) indictments." Judge Sheehan sentenced the defendant on October 31, 1952 "for a minimum term of ten years and for a maximum term of fourteen years upon Indictment No. 291, charging breaking, entering, larceny and receiving."

Originally, Quatro appealed in forma pauperis from all the judgments of conviction. It was determined that Indictment No. 290, charging maliciously setting fire to a building, was legally defective. The conviction was reversed and the sentence thereon imposed which had been 10 to 14 years, to be served consecutively to the sentence on Indictment No. 291, was set aside; but the judgments on all the other indictments were affirmed. State v. Quatro , 31 N.J. Super. 51 (App. Div. 1954). The latter sentences had all been imposed to be served concurrently with that on Indictment No. 290.

Subsequently, the defendant was resentenced by Judge Waugh of the Essex County Court, Judge Sheehan having resigned, on the judgments of conviction that had been affirmed. The same sentence of 10 to 14 years was imposed on Indictment No. 291. In addition a sentence of five to seven years was imposed on Indictment No. 257, to be served consecutively to the sentence on Indictment No. 291; the other sentences were made concurrent with either the sentence on Indictment No. 291 or Indictment No. 257. The defendant again appealed in forma pauperis , arguing that the trial court "unlawfully sentenced, and changed the legally valid concurrent sentences, to be consecutively served." The Appellate Division held that the trial court had acted consistently with its previous mandate and that the resentencing was entirely fair and correct; that there was no double jeopardy or denial of due process, State v. Quatro , 33 N.J. Super. 333 (App. Div. 1954). On further appeal to the Supreme Court, the judgment was affirmed on the opinion below, 18 N.J. 201 (1955).

On the present appeal only the sentence on Indictment No. 291 is at issue. The defendant questions the validity of the 10-to-14-year general sentence imposed under that indictment, which was in three counts; the first, for breaking and entering; the second, for larceny of money; and the third, for knowingly receiving the money which had been stolen. Each offense is a high misdemeanor, and, if valid, the maximum sentence that could be imposed on each count is seven years. N.J.S. 2 A:85-6.

The purpose of the present proceeding is solely to test the validity of the sentence imposed under Indictment No. 291. In the County Court, the sentence was held to be not illegal and the defendant's motion for correction of sentence was denied, State v. Quatro , 40 N.J. Super. 111 (Cty. Ct. 1956). He now appeals.

The defendant's principal contention on this appeal is that the general sentence of 10 to 14 years under Indictment No. 291 is erroneous in that it is greater than the maximum penalty of seven years which could be imposed under any single count of the indictment. We agree. The rule was generally accepted at common law that a consolidated or general sentence, i.e. , one which does not specify the punishment imposed under separate counts of an indictment, will not be upheld if it exceeds the maximum term of imprisonment permissible under any single count. 2 Bishop's Criminal Procedure (1913), § 1327, p. 1150; 24 C.J.S., Criminal Law , § 1567 (b), p. 39; 15 Am. Jur., Criminal Law , § 451, p. 112. This rule obtains here, for a contrary view would run counter to the recent Supreme Court pronouncement in State v. Cianci , 18 N.J. 191 (1955), certiorari denied 350 U.S. 1000, 76 S. Ct. 555, 100 L. Ed. 864 (1956). There, the court stated that "no legislative grant exists for combining the penalties separately set forth in the * * * acts." Such practice is commonly known as "lumping" and sentences so imposed are ineffective. So here.

We do not agree with defendant's contention that this conclusion requires a declaration of invalidity of that portion of the sentence which is in excess of that permitted

under a single count, thereby effecting remission of any penalty for the conviction on the other counts. Defendant cites in support of this result a line of cases of which Ex parte Peeke , 144 F. 1016 (D.C.N.J. 1906), affirmed 153 F. 166, 12 L.R.A., N.S. , 314 (3 Cir. 1907) is typical; but see United States v. Lynch , 159 F.2d 198 (7 Cir. 1947); McDonald v. Hudspeth , 129 F.2d 196 (10 Cir. 1942), certiorari denied 317 U.S. 665, 63 S. Ct. 75, 87 L. Ed. 535 (1942), rehearing denied 317 U.S. 709, 63 S. Ct. 157, 87 L. Ed. 565; Myers v. Morgan , 224 F. 413 (8 Cir. 1915). In such a contingency as here presented, the rule to be affirmed and applied by the court should, if possible, serve both the requirement of the Cianci case, supra , that the court weigh and determine separately the punishment to be imposed for each offense, and the consideration that the defendant should not because of a mere technicality escape just punishment for any of the crimes of which he has been convicted. The rule of Ex parte Peeke, supra , fails to meet the second objective mentioned. The solution is to be found in our practice rules. R.R. 1:5-1 (c) , which stems from the Criminal Procedure Act of 1898 (c. 237, § 144), later R.S. 2:195-23, provides:

"If a judgment of conviction shall be reversed for error in the sentence, the appellate court may render such judgment as should have been rendered, or may remand the cause to the court in which the ...

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