After conviction an accusation was filed by the State of New Jersey, charging the defendant with being a third-time narcotics offender and seeking the enhanced penalties provided under N.J.S.A. 24:18-47(b), known as the Uniform Narcotic Drug Law. The defendant's narcotics convictions are as follows:
December 8, 1938, Atlantic County Special Quarter Sessions Court, conviction, possession of narcotics.
May 1, 1950, United States District Court for the District of Columbia, conviction under 26 U.S.C. §§ 2553(a), 2554(a) 2591(a) and 2593(a). (Harrison Act) by guilty plea. Failure to pay a tax on possession and transfer of marihuana, etc.
February 6, 1961, Atlantic County Court, violation of R.S. 24:18-4, in that he unlawfully possessed and had under his control a narcotic drug, to wit, heroin.
The last mentioned conviction, which constituted the defendant a third offender, was the result of a jury verdict. The previous narcotics violations were not set forth in the indictment.
In State v. Laird , 25 N.J. 298 (1957), Justice Heher, speaking for the Supreme Court, stated that although provision is made for additional punishment in case of repetition of criminal action, the accused must clearly be informed of the charges against him, and this applies to elements of aggravation under statutes enlarging the grade of crime by enhancing punishment. The court pointed out that a second or third offender is entitled, before sentence, to be given notice and afforded an opportunity to be heard
as to commission of prior offenses made a precondition of the greater punishment.
Pursuant thereto the aforesaid accusation was filed by the State, and defendant, after notice, appeared in court with court-appointed counsel who had represented him at the trial. His counsel admitted the convictions only for the purpose of making this motion, and moved to dismiss the accusation on the ground that the violation of the federal statute cannot be brought within the meaning of the words of the New Jersey statute.
The pertinent provisions of the statute, N.J.S.A. 24:18-47(b), read as follows:
"Any person as in this chapter defined
(b) Who violates any provision hereof shall be guilty of a high misdemeanor and shall ...