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State v. Parton

Decided: October 4, 1991.

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
RONALD PARTON, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Union County.

Petrella, Ashbey and Arnold M. Stein. The opinion of the court was delivered by Arnold M. Stein, J.A.D.

Stein

Defendant was found guilty of two counts of third degree arson (N.J.S.A. 2C:17-1b(1) and (2)) as lesser included offenses of two second degree aggravated arson counts (N.J.S.A. 2C:17-1a(1) and (2)). He received two concurrent five-year prison

terms, each with a two-and-one-half-year period of parole ineligibility. Total VCCB penalties of $60 and a fine of $500 were also imposed. We affirm.

The State offered proof that defendant set fire to a building in which there resided a female acquaintance who earlier that evening had rejected his overtures after he arrived late for a date.

The trial judge allowed testimony by a bloodhound handler that the dog tracked defendant from a mattress where it was suspected that he slept to the building which had been set on fire. We conclude that this testimony of dog tracking is admissible when a proper preliminary foundation has been established.

There is no reported appellate case in New Jersey dealing with tracking by dogs. The only reported decision is a trial court opinion, State v. Wanczyk, 196 N.J. Super. 397, 401-404, 482 A.2d 964 (Law Div.1984), in which Judge Menza's thorough, carefully-reasoned opinion held such testimony admissible upon proper circumstances. We agree with the ruling in Wanczyk for the reasons set forth by Judge Menza and see no reason to rewrite his comprehensive analysis and conclusions on the subject.

There are universally accepted prerequisites to the admission of testimony regarding dog tracking:

1. The dog's handler must have sufficient knowledge, skill, training or experience to evaluate the dog's actions.

2. Once qualified as an expert, the handler must give testimony about the particular dog used and that the dog

a. is of a stock characterized by acute scent and power of discrimination and that this particular dog possessed those qualities;

b. was trained and tested and proved to be reliable in the tracking of human beings;

c. was laid on a trail where circumstances tended to show that the suspect has been, or a track which circumstances indicated ...


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