Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

State v. Molina

July 12, 2006

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
ROSALINDA F. MOLINA, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.
STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
DANIEL RUCKER, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.
STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
OSCAR STERLING, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.
STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
FRANCISCO ALBERT CASTRO, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.



On appeals from the Superior Court, Law Division, Bergen County (State v. Molina), Camden County (State v. Rucker), Passaic County (State v. Sterling) and Hudson County (State v. Castro).

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

(This syllabus is not part of the opinion of the Court. It has been prepared by the Office of the Clerk for the convenience of the reader. It has been neither reviewed nor approved by the Supreme Court. Please note that, in the interests of brevity, portions of any opinion may not have been summarized).

In these appeals, the Court is called on to determine when, and under what circumstances, leave to appeal as within time should be granted in criminal cases.

These appeals arise from applications for leave to appeal as within time filed by defendants Rosalinda Molina, Daniel Rucker, Oscar Sterling, and Francisco Castro, each of whom pled guilty to criminal charges and were sentenced to terms of imprisonment. Appeals from each of these defendants were untimely and none qualified for the grace period provided in R. 2:4-4(a). Each defendant submitted a certification outlining his or her reasons for failing to file a timely notice of appeal. The Appellate Division granted defendants leave to file their notices of appeal as within time.

This Court granted the State's applications for leave to appeal in all four cases, vacated its grant, and reinstated the State's appeal following the State's motions for reconsideration.

HELD: As an overarching principle, a defendant who has been advised of his right to appeal as provided under R. 3:21-4(h) and fails to prosecute his appeal in a timely manner is not entitled to relief; as a limited exception to that rule, a defendant who has been advised of his right to appeal as provided under R. 3:21-4(h) and fails to prosecute his appeal in a timely manner may be entitled to relief if he demonstrates, by his own certification and by a preponderance of the credible evidence, that he did request the filing of an appeal in a timely manner and that counsel failed to prosecute it; if a defendant has not been advised of his right to appeal as provided under R. 3:21-4(h), he is entitled to as within time relief provided the sentencing transcript confirms he was not advised of his right to appeal under the Rule and his application for leave to appeal is filed no later than five years from the date of his sentencing.

1. The New Jersey Constitution provides for the appellate review of criminal proceedings. In 1986, in State v. Bianco, this Court held that the constitutional right to appellate review requires it to establish appellate procedures that satisfy the Federal Due Process Clause and, further, that in order to satisfy the Due Process Clause, defendants must be given a meaningful opportunity to be heard. (pp. 9-10)

2. This Court finds that the time limitations for the lodging of an appeal -- the forty-five days allowed under R. 2:4-1(a), as that period may be extended for an additional thirty days under R. 2;4-4(a) -- provide criminal defendants the constitutionally required meaningful opportunity to be heard. (p. 10)

3. In 1977, this Court relaxed the provisions of R. 2:4-4(a) in favor of allowing an out-of-time appeal to be filed as within time on behalf of an indigent criminal defendant. Subsequently, an Appellate Division opinion, State v. Altman, provided the framework within which to gauge whether such relief should be granted. Altman held that the sole determinant on a motion by an indigent criminal defendant for leave to file a notice of appeal as within time is whether that defendant asked counsel, within time, to file such a notice for him. (pp. 11-12)

4. Now, twenty-five years later, we find that adjustment to that framework is warranted. We reaffirm the general rule that a defendant who has been advised of his right to appeal as provided under R. 3:21-4(h) yet fails to prosecute his appeal in a timely manner presumptively is not entitled to as within time relief. We hold, as a limited exception to that rule, that a defendant who has been advised of his right to appeal as provided under R. 3:21-4(h) and fails to prosecute his appeal in a timely manner may be entitled to as within time relief if he demonstrates, by his own certification and by a preponderance of the credible evidence, that he did request the filing of an appeal in a timely manner and that his then counsel failed to prosecute it. If a defendant has not been advised of his right to appeal under R. 3:21-4(h), he is entitled to as within time relief provided the sentencing transcript confirms he was not advised of his right to appeal under the Rule and his application for leave to appeal as within time is filed no later than five years from the date of his sentencing. (pp. 12-13)

5. We must determine whether the rule we announce today is to be applied retroactively. When placed against the backdrop of our 1977 directive, as cited in and interpreted by State v. Altman, we conclude that our ruling, at least in part, announces a new rule. Therefore, this rule will be applied prospectively only. (pp. 14-15)

6. We adopt as an interim measure the requirement that a defendant's appeal right must be communicated to him in writing and in a manner that insures a meaningful discussion with counsel. In the future, before imposing sentence, trial courts are to provide defendants with a form, to be generated and executed in duplicate, a sample of which is reproduced as Appendix A. The procedures we adopt are intended solely as interim measures. We refer the development of an appeal rights form to the Criminal Practice Rules Committee. (pp. 15-16)

7. In granting defendants' motions, the Appellate Division noted that the State did not contest the factual assertions in defendant's certifications or assert any actual prejudice. In those circumstances, and because we give our ruling prospective application only, we see no reason to disturb this conclusion. (p.16)

The separate orders of the Appellate Division granting leave to appeal as within time are AFFIRMED.

CHIEF JUSTICE PORITZ and JUSTICES LONG, LaVECCHIA, ZAZZALI, ALBIN, and WALLACE join in JUSTICE RIVERA-SOTO's opinion.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Rivera-soto

Argued May 2, 2006

Rule 3:21-4(h) specifically provides that "[a]fter imposing sentence, whether following the defendant's plea of guilty or a finding of guilty after trial, the court shall advise the defendant of the right to appeal and, if the defendant is indigent, of the right to appeal as an indigent." Pursuant to Rule 2:4-1(a), "[a]ppeals from final judgments of courts . . . shall be taken within 45 days of their entry." And, Rule 2:4-4(a) allows a thirty--day extension "upon a showing of good cause and the absence of prejudice . . . but only if the notice of appeal . . . was in fact served and filed within the time as extended."

These consolidated appeals arise from applications for leave to appeal as within time*fn1 filed by defendants Rosalinda Molina, Daniel Rucker, Oscar Sterling, and Francisco Albert Castro, each of whom pled guilty to various criminal charges and was sentenced to corresponding terms of imprisonment.*fn2 In light of the time strictures applicable to the filing of an appeal, we are called on to determine when, and under what circumstances, leave to appeal as within time should be granted in criminal cases. As an overarching principle, we hold that a defendant who has been advised of his right to appeal as provided under R. 3:21-4(h) and fails to prosecute his appeal in a timely manner is not entitled to as within time relief. As a limited exception to that rule, we hold that a defendant who has been advised of his right to appeal as provided under R. 3:21-4(h) and fails to prosecute his appeal in a timely manner may be entitled to as within time relief if he demonstrates, by his own certification and by a preponderance of the credible evidence, that the defendant did request the filing of an appeal in a timely manner and that counsel failed to prosecute it. We further hold that if a defendant has not been advised of his right to appeal as provided under R. 3:21-4(h), he is entitled to as within time relief provided the sentencing transcript confirms that he was not advised of his right to appeal under the Rule, and his application for leave to appeal as within time is filed no later than five years from the date of his sentencing.

Because the predicate to a defendant's right to appeal as within time is whether the defendant was advised of that right as provided in R. 3:21-4(h), and for the avoidance of future doubt, we exercise our supervisory powers and require, as part of the sentencing proceeding, that a form outlining a defendant's appeal rights must be given to the defendant, and completed by the defendant and his counsel in duplicate, with one copy to be placed in the trial court's file and the remaining copy to be retained by the defendant.

I.

Although not dispositive, the facts underlying these consolidated appeals are instructive of the concerns we address. Appeals from each of these defendants were untimely and none qualified for the grace period provided in R. 2:4-4(a). As of the dates of their respective applications for leave to appeal as within time, the forty-five day time period within which a notice of appeal had to be filed had expired over sixteen months (Molina), ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.