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State v. Lippincott

Decided: April 23, 1973.

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ROBERTA ANNE LIPPINCOTT, DEFENDANT



Schroth, J.m.c.

Schroth

In this matter the law firm of Pellettieri & Rabstein (Ira C. Miller, Esquire, appearing,) was appointed to represent the defendant by the Trenton Municipal Court on the grounds that the Defendant could not afford to retain her own attorney and was entitled to representation under the guidelines of Rodriquez v. Rosenblatt , 58 N.J. 281 (1971).

Defendant is charged with driving while intoxicated in violation of N.J.S.A. 39:4-50(a) and careless driving in violation of N.J.S.A. 39:4-97.

Defense counsel has filed a motion seeking the appointment of an expert witness at public expense. Paragraph 4 of the petition states:

The undersigned, as Counsel for the Petitioner, having reviewed the facts and circumstances herein, represents to this Court that he cannot adequately prepare a defense nor sufficiently discharge his obligation to the Petitioner or the Court without the services of an expert witness competent to testify as to the consumption, ingestion and absorption rate and effects of alcohol upon the human body.

Oral arguments on said motion were heard before me on March 14, 1973. In addition, briefs were submitted by the parties.

It appears to the court that there are at least one and possibly two questions before it. The initial inquiry is whether defendant is entitled to the appointment at public expense of an expert witness to aid in her defense. If this question is answered in the affirmative the second inquiry becomes whether the City of Trenton or the State must bear that expense which, of course, must be reasonable in nature.

In Rodriquez v. Rosenblatt, supra , our Supreme Court held:

Our municipal court judges have had and continue to have broad discretion to assign free counsel to indigent defendants whenever justice so requires. That discretion may be exercised liberally under general guidelines without entailing the feared inundations. When the very charge and the attendant circumstances indicate that the indigent defendant will be in need of the assistance of assigned counsel, he should of course have it. Indeed, whenever the particular nature of the charge is such that imprisonment in fact or other consequence of magnitude is actually threatened or is a likelihood on conviction, the indigent defendant should have counsel assigned to him unless he chooses to proceed pro se with his plea of guilty or his defense at trial [58 N.J. at 295]

Petition of the attorney for the defendant establishes his sincere belief that he cannot adequately and properly represent here without the assistance of an expert witness who must be paid. It appears to me that to assign an attorney

and then deny him the means necessary to provide an adequate, proper and complete defense, would be contrary to the ...


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