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State v. Dellisanti

July 30, 2009

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
FRANK G. DELLISANTI, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County, Indictment No. 07-04-0701.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued: June 3, 2009

Before Judges Cuff, Fisher and C.L. Miniman.

Following a jury trial, defendant Frank G. Dellisanti was convicted of fourth degree knowingly exhibiting or displaying to a law enforcement officer a falsely made, forged, altered, counterfeited or simulated motor vehicle insurance identification card, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:21-2.3b (Count One); and fourth degree uttering a writing or record, specifically a motor vehicle insurance identification card, knowing that it contained a false statement or information, with purpose to deceive or injure another or to conceal any wrongdoing, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:21-4a (Count Two). After merging Count Two with Count One, the trial judge sentenced defendant to ninety days in the Bergen County Jail as a condition of his one-year probation. The appropriate penalties, assessments and fees were also imposed.

In late 2005, defendant attempted to enter a trailer park through an entrance that had been closed by emergency personnel. Defendant persisted and a confrontation ensued with a volunteer firefighter who was monitoring the entrance and directing traffic. The firefighter accused defendant of striking him with his truck as he sought to enter the park. The firefighter declined treatment but defendant was charged with one count of third degree knowingly or recklessly causing bodily injury to a clearly identifiable firefighter. He was acquitted of the charge.

A police officer, who received the report of the alleged assault, confronted defendant and requested that he produce his vehicle documentation and driver's license. Defendant produced a Montana driver's license and vehicle registration, and an expired temporary insurance card. Defendant asserted that he had a valid insurance card and the officer informed defendant that he had twenty-four hours to produce a valid insurance card to the desk officer at the local police station.

When the officer next reported to the station, he found an insurance card clipped to the incident report. Immediately, he questioned the validity of the card. The company number on the card had six digits; he had never seen more than four digits. The company number was also similar to the policy number. He also noticed that the name of the insurer appeared as "A.f.i., inc." rather than "A.F.I., Inc." Finally, the expiration date was February 31, 2006, a nonexistent date. The insurance card instructed the holder to call "USF[&G]" to report claims. When the officer called the number on the card, he learned that the company no longer existed. He was unable to locate a company known as "A.f.i., inc."

On December 27, 2005, defendant appeared at the police station to file a complaint against the firefighter. The commanding officer showed him the insurance card and asked if he had brought it to the station. Defendant confirmed that he did so. The officer applied for and obtained an arrest warrant from the municipal court judge. Defendant was arrested and charged with uttering a false document. Police also issued a motor vehicle ticket for no insurance. Later, defendant was indicted, tried and convicted of one count of knowingly presenting a false insurance card to police and one count of knowingly uttering a false card with the intent to injure, deceive, or conceal wrongdoing.

On appeal, defendant raises the following arguments:

POINT I

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN CONTINUING THE TRIAL IN THE DEFENDANT'S ABSENCE AFTER THE DEFENDANT WAS TAKEN INTO CUSTODY ON A WARRANT FOR A VIOLATION OF PROBATION THEREBY VIOLATING DEFENDANT'S CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO BE PRESENT AT TRIAL (NOT RAISED BELOW)

POINT II

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN ALLOWING A STATE'S WITNESS TO PROVIDE EXPERT OPINION TESTIMONY WITHOUT QUALIFYING HIM AS AN EXPERT, PERMITTING HIM TO RENDER AN OPINION ON AN ULTIMATE ISSUE, AND IN FAILING TO PROPERLY INSTRUCT THE JURY ON THE PROPER USE OF EXPERT TESTIMONY (NOT RAISED BELOW)

POINT III

PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDUCT DURING CROSS-EXAMINATION OF THE DEFENDANT DEPRIVED THE DEFENDANT OF A ...


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