Edward J. Haynes was convicted in Part I of the Municipal Court of the City of Newark for failure to have a narcotic registration card in his possession on September 28, 1962, under the provisions of N.J.S. 2A:169A-4. He was sentenced to a term of six months in the Essex County Penitentiary on October 11, 1962. He appeals his conviction to this court.
On September 28, 1962 defendant Haynes and another were observed by two officers of the police department of the City of Newark allegedly engaging in activities commonly known as jostling. Defendant and his companion, apparently aware of the observations of the officers, left the scene of their activities and proceeded north on Broad Street and, thence, east on Clinton Street to the doorway of the Union Building. At this point they were apprehended by the police officers and arrested, ostensibly on the charge of jostling. On arrival at police headquarters, interrogation of defendant Haynes disclosed that he was registered under the provisions of N.J.S. 2A:169A-1 as a narcotics violator. He was thereupon asked to produce his registration card which he is required to carry under the provisions of N.J.S. 2A:169A-4. He informed the authorities that he did not have the card in his possession since he had inadvertently left the same in another pair of trousers which were at his home. He offered to make a telephone call and have his mother bring the card to police headquarters. He also requested one of the officers to go to his home and procure the card. Both requests were
denied. Thereafter, on October 11, 1962, after an adjournment, defendant appeared before a magistrate on the charge presently here for review, and was found guilty. The aforementioned sentence followed.
Defendant argues on this appeal that the provisions of N.J.S. 2A:169A-4 must be read by the court to include the element of intent in its provisions. It is argued that the statute as presently constituted without the expressed requirement of intentional or willful failure to carry a registration card is contrary to every principle of our criminal jurisprudence -- unless the element of intent or willfulness is deemed to have been included implicitly in the provisions by the courts. The authority for this argument which is cited to me by defendant is Morissette v. United States , 342 U.S. 246, 72 S. Ct. 240, 96 L. Ed. 288 (1952).
The provisions of N.J.S. 2A:169A-4, insofar as they are applicable here, read as follows:
"Every person so registered shall be given a card of identification signed by the chief of police or the officer in charge of the office of the State Police with whom he registered, * * * and every such person so registered shall carry with him such card of identification and any failure to do so or to present the same, when so requested by a police officer, shall be deemed to be a violation of this act."
Under the provisions of N.J.S. 2A:169A-8 a violation of section 2A:169A-4 constitutes a disorderly person's offense. The maximum general penalty for a disorderly person's offense under the provisions of N.J.S. 2A:169-4 is imprisonment for not more than one year or a fine of not more than $1,000, or both.
Defendant's reading of Morissette seems to be that a legislative body may impose a so-called strict liability under criminal statutes only in cases where the penalty for the violation of such statutes does not include imprisonment. While such a principle may be desirable under our concepts of justice and fair play, I do not believe that a fair reading of Justice Jackson's opinion for the court in Morissette can lead to such a result. Indeed, the Supreme Court in Morissette
expressly approved the decisions of the court in United States v. Balint , 258 U.S. 250, 42 S. Ct. 301, 66 L. Ed. 604 (1922), and United States v. Behrman , 258 U.S. 280, 42 S. Ct. 303, 66 L. Ed. 619 (1922). Both Balint and Behrman involved violations of the Narcotics Act of December 17, 1941, 38 Stat. 785, c. 1. That statute did not make knowledge an element of the offense of selling to another a derivative of opium not in pursuance to a written order on a form issued for this purpose by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue. Justice Jackson pointed out that Balint and Behrman both involved offenses belonging to a category of a character different than the crime then before the court.
Implicit in Justice Jackson's opinion is a recognition of the differences between the so-called public welfare offenses and those crimes which have their origin in our common law. Despite this classification, however, the opinion indicates ...