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State v. Zelinski

Decided: December 20, 1960.

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
MARY C. ZELINSKI, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



For affirmance -- Chief Justice Weintraub, and Justices Jacobs, Francis, Proctor, Hall and Schettino. For reversal -- None. The opinion of the court was delivered by Schettino, J.

Schettino

Appeal is from a County Court judgment of conviction of defendant as a disorderly person for violating N.J.S. 2 A:170-25.5, in that defendant failed to relinquish to a doctor a telephone party line during an alleged emergency. Defendant had been convicted in a municipal court and, thereafter, appealed to the County Court which heard the matter de novo without a jury. While the appeal from that court was pending in the Appellate Division, we certified it on our own motion.

The statute provides:

"Any person who fails to relinquish a telephone party line, consisting of a subscriber line telephone circuit with 2 or more main telephone stations connected therewith each having a distinctive ring or telephone number after he has been requested so to do to permit another to place a call, in an emergency in which property or human life are in jeopardy and the prompt summoning of aid is essential, to a fire or police department or for medical aid or ambulance service, and any person who shall request the use of such a party line by falsely stating that the same is needed for any of said

purposes knowing said statement to be false, shall be a disorderly person; provided such party line at the time of the request is not being used for any other such emergency call."

This case is one of first impression, not only in this State but in the country as well, as no reported decision has been found in the 29 states which have, to date, passed similar statutes.

Defendant urges three grounds for reversal: (A) that the statute violates the constitutional mandate (Art. 4, ยง 7, par. 4), that every law shall embrace but one object which shall be expressed in the title; and (B) that if the offense created by the statute is held to be a crime, defendant was denied her constitutional right to indictment and trial by jury; and (C) that the testimony did not support a conviction.

A.

We first discuss Article 4, section 7, paragraph 4 which states in part:

"To avoid improper influences which may result from intermixing in one and the same act such things as have no proper relation to each other, every law shall embrace but one object, and that shall be expressed in the title." (Emphasis added)

The statute is entitled, "An Act concerning crimes, relating to the use of telephone party lines in cases of emergency, and supplementing subtitle 10 of Title 2A of the New Jersey Statutes." Defendant emphasizes the words "concerning crimes" and "subtitle 10." She contends that these words relate to crimes and are in conflict with the body of the act which establishes a disorderly persons offense and not a crime and, therefore, the title violates the constitutional provision.

As originally introduced, the present title was contained in the bill and the body of the bill consistently denounced the prohibited conduct as a misdemeanor. That is a crime in this ...


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