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. Ingram

Supreme Court of New Jersey

August 1, 2017

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
AMED INGRAM, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued May 16, 2017

         On appeal from the Superior Court, Appellate Division, whose opinion is reported at 449 N.J.Super. 94 (App. Div. 2017) .

          Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, argued the cause for appellant (Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney; Laura B. Lasota, Assistant Deputy Public Defender, of counsel and on the briefs).

          Claudia Joy Demitro, Deputy Attorney General, argued the cause for respondent (Christopher S. Porrino, Attorney General of New Jersey, attorney; Claudia Joy Demitro, of counsel and on the briefs).

          Alexander R. Shalom argued the cause for amicus curiae American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey (Edward L. Barocas, Legal Director, attorney; Alexander R. Shalom, Edward L. Barocas, and Jeanne M. LoCicero on the letter brief).

          John K. McNamara, Jr., Morris County Supervising Assistant Prosecutor, argued the cause for amicus curiae, County Prosecutors Association of New Jersey (Richard T. Burke, President, attorney; John K. McNamara, Jr., of counsel and on the brief).

         RABNER, C.J., writing for the Court.

         Under the Criminal Justice Reform Act (CJRA), which went into effect on January 1, 2017, prosecutors can seek to detain defendants who pose a serious risk of danger, flight, or obstruction. N.J.S.A. 2A: 162-18(a)(1). In this appeal, the Court considers the manner in which the State may present its proofs when it moves for detention.

         Police officers arrested defendant Amed Ingram on January 1, 2017, at 1:08 a.m., after an officer observed him in possession of a defaced .45 caliber handgun loaded with eight rounds. The State charged defendant in a complaint-warrant with second-degree unlawful possession of a handgun, second-degree possession of a firearm for an unlawful purpose, second-degree possession of a firearm by certain persons with a prior conviction, and fourth-degree receipt of a defaced firearm. The affidavit of probable cause in support of the complaint generally tracks the language of the statutes under which defendant was charged and, in the space to explain how law enforcement became aware of the stated facts, the officer wrote, "officer observations." The officer also prepared a preliminary law enforcement incident report (PLEIR), which, at the time, was incorporated into the affidavit. The PLEIR offered these details: that the "complaining officer" and "[a]nother law enforcement officer[] personally observed the offense"; that a handgun "was involved in the incident"; and that the officers recovered spent shell casings. A Pretrial Services officer prepared a Public Safety Assessment (PSA). It rated defendant 6 out of 6-the highest level-for risk of both failure to appear and new criminal activity. The PSA also noted defendant's criminal history.

         The State moved for detention and submitted the following documents: the complaint-warrant, the affidavit of probable cause, the PSA, the PLEIR, and defendant's criminal history. Defense counsel objected and argued that the CJRA and court rules required the State to present a live witness to establish probable cause.

         The trial court rejected defendant's claims. The court first found that the State could proceed by proffer at a detention hearing. The court relied on the language and legislative history of the CJRA and also looked to federal law for support. The court noted as well that judges had discretion to order witness testimony. Next, the trial court found that the documents the State had submitted established probable cause for the offenses charged. The court also concluded that defendant would pose a risk of danger to the community if released, and, based on clear and convincing evidence, ordered defendant detained.

         Defendant appealed the order pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A: 162-18(c). In addition to the statutory claims he raised before the trial court, defendant argued that to allow the prosecutor to proceed by proffer alone would violate his right to due process.

         The Appellate Division affirmed in a thorough and well-reasoned opinion. 449 N.J.Super. 94 (App. Div. 2017). The panel rejected defendant's due process claim and held that the State was not required to produce a live witness at a detention hearing to establish probable cause. Id. at 101. The court observed that procedures to determine probable cause need not "be accompanied by the full panoply of adversary safeguards." Id. at 102 (quoting Gerstein v. Pugh, 420 U.S. 103, 119 (1975)). The panel also drew on federal case law that construed the Bail Reform Act of 1984, 18 U.S.C.A. §§ 3141 to 3156. The panel rejected defendant's statutory arguments as well. Id. at 114. The Appellate Division issued its ruling on March 1, 2017. Two weeks later, a grand jury returned an indictment that charged defendant with four firearms offenses.

         After defendant filed a motion for leave to appeal, the Attorney General superseded the Camden County Prosecutor's Office. The Court granted defendant's motion on March 29, 2017. __N.J.__(2017).

         HELD: Neither the statute's plain language nor principles of due process require the State to present testimony from a live witness at every detention hearing. Instead, the State may proceed by proffer to try to satisfy its burden of proof and show that detention is warranted. Trial judges, however, retain discretion to require direct testimony when they are dissatisfied with the State's proffer.

         1. At a detention hearing, a defendant has the right "to testify, to present witnesses, to cross-examine witnesses who appear at the hearing, and to present information by proffer or otherwise." N.J.S.A. 2A: 162-19(e)(1). If a grand jury has not returned an indictment, "the prosecutor shall establish probable cause that the eligible defendant committed the predicate offense." N.J.S.A. 2A: 162-19(e)(2). To decide whether detention is warranted a court may "take into account" a number of factors. N.J.S.A. 2A:162-20(a)-(f). (pp. 10-13)

         2. Section 19(e)(1) grants defendants the right to "cross-examine witnesses who appear at the hearing." N.J.S.A. 2A:162-19(e)(1) (emphasis added). In Section 19(e)(1), the Legislature afforded defendants the right to cross-examine a witness who testifies at a hearing. The section does not require the State to call a witness. Section 19(e)(1) also permits a defendant "to present information by proffer." The statute is silent about whether the State may call witnesses, cross-examine witnesses, or 'otherwise' present information to the judge, all of which the Act expressly permits a defendant to do. The Court cannot conclude that the Legislature's silence either bars the State from presenting proofs in those ways or obligates it to summon a live witness. Other parts of the statute reveal that the Legislature intended for the parties to use documentary evidence at a detention hearing, (pp. 13-16)

         3. Defendant claims that his right to due process requires the State to call a live witness at a pretrial detention hearing. Defendant focuses on the need for live testimony for the State to establish probable cause, not to argue for detention. As the Court observed in State v. Robinson, 229 N.J. 44, 61, 70 (2017), the CJRA, N.J.S.A. 2AT62-15 to -26, in many respects follows the federal Bail Reform Act and the District of Columbia's statutory scheme for pretrial detention, D.C. Code. §§ 23-1321 to -1333. The Federal Constitution does not require the prosecution to present live testimony to establish probable cause. Gerstein, supra, 420 U.S. at 120. The CJRA, in effect, incorporated Gerstein's mandate that a judge find probable cause as a prerequisite to detention after an arrest. The Act did not elevate the standard. Grand jury presentations can include hearsay evidence that neither the defendant nor defense counsel is present to observe, let alone cross-examine. Had a grand jury indicted defendant before the detention hearing, the State would not have needed to establish probable cause. And defendant could not have persuasively argued that the court's reliance on the indictment violated his due process rights, (pp. 16-21)

         4. United States v. Salerno, 481 U.S. 739, 752 (1987), recounted the procedural protections that the federal act offers defendants and found that those "extensive safeguards" are sufficient "to repel" a constitutional challenge. The CJRA provides identical safeguards. Circuit Courts that have decided the question have concluded that the federal act allows the government to proceed by proffer at a detention hearing, subject to the judge's discretion. And in United States v. Edwards, 430 A.2d 1321 (D.C. 1981), the District of Columbia Court of Appeals found that the D.C. Code allowed both the government and the defense to present information by proffer. The Court draws guidance from precedent that interpreted a law similar to the CJRA. (pp. 21-26)

         5. The traditional balancing test for due process claims does not require the State to present live testimony at every hearing. Pretrial detention significantly interferes with a defendant's liberty interest, but extensive safeguards protect that critical interest. And to require the State to present a live witness at more than 10, 000 detention hearings each year would impose significant additional fiscal and administrative burdens on the court system, law enforcement officers, the prosecution, and public defenders. The trial court has discretion to require direct testimony if it is dissatisfied with the State's proffer. In those instances, the State must proceed reasonably promptly to avoid unduly prolonging a defendant's detention while the hearing is pending, (pp. 26-29)

         6. It would have been within the trial court's discretion to require a witness here. The State did not establish probable cause for possession for an unlawful purpose, and the affidavit should contain sufficient information in the form of factual details, not legal conclusions, to explain how probable cause exists for each charge, (pp. 29-32)

         The judgment of the Appellate Division is AFFIRMED.

          JUSTICES LaVECCHIA, ALBIN, PATTERSON, FERNANDEZ-VINA, SOLOMON, and TIMPONE join in CHIEF JUSTICE RABNER's opinion.

          OPINION

          RABNER CHIEF JUSTICE.

         Under the Criminal Justice Reform Act (CJRA), which went into effect on January 1, 2017, prosecutors can seek to detain defendants who pose a serious risk of danger, flight, or obstruction. N.J.S.A. 2A:162-18(a)(1). In this appeal, we consider the manner in which the State may present its proofs when it moves for detention.

         Before the trial court in this case, the State proffered various documents about the offense and defendant's criminal history in support of an application for detention. Defendant asserted that the State was required to call a live witness with firsthand knowledge of the offenses charged to establish probable cause.

         We agree with the trial court and the Appellate Division that neither the statute's plain language nor principles of due process require the State to present testimony from a live witness at every detention hearing. Instead, the State may proceed by proffer to try to satisfy its burden of proof and show that detention is warranted. Trial judges, however, retain discretion to require direct testimony when they are dissatisfied with the State's proffer.

         We therefore affirm the judgment of the Appellate Division.

         I.

         To recount the facts, we rely on the materials the State submitted in connection with the detention hearing in this case.

         Police officers arrested defendant Amed Ingram on January 1, 2017, at 1:08 a.m., after an officer observed him in possession of a firearm: a defaced .45 caliber handgun loaded with eight rounds. The arrest took place slightly more than one hour after the CJRA went into effect.

         The State charged defendant in a complaint-warrant with four offenses: second-degree unlawful possession of a handgun, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5(b)(1) (Count One); second-degree possession of a firearm for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4(a)(1) (Count Two); second-degree possession of a firearm by certain persons with a prior conviction, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-7(b)(1) (Count Three); and fourth-degree receipt of a defaced firearm, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-9(e) (Count Four).

         The affidavit of probable cause in support of the complaint contained the following facts as to each count:

*Count One: "Defendant was found to be in possession of a handgun."
*Count Two: "Defendant was found to be in possession of a handgun with no lawful purpose."
*Count Three: "Defendant was found to be in possession of a firearm with a prior conviction of possession of [a controlled dangerous substance] on school property[, N.J.S.A.] 2C:35-7."
*Count Four: "Defendant was found to be in possession of a defaced firearm."

         The affidavit also had a space to explain how law enforcement became aware of the stated facts. In this case, the officer wrote, "officer observations."

         The officer also prepared a preliminary law enforcement incident report (PLEIR), which, at the time, was incorporated into the affidavit. See State v. Robinson, 229 N.J. 44, 61, 70 (2017). The PLEIR offered these details: that the "complaining officer" and "[a]nother law enforcement officer[] personally observed the offense"; that a handgun "was involved in the incident"; and that the officers recovered spent shell casings.

         A Pretrial Services officer prepared a Public Safety Assessment (PSA) that rated defendant 6 out of 6 -- the highest level -- for risk of both failure to appear and new criminal activity. The PSA also noted defendant's criminal history, which included five indictable convictions, five failures to appear, and six sentences of imprisonment. Three of the failures to appear had occurred within the past two years. At the time of the arrest, defendant also had a pending charge for simple assault. The PSA recommended that defendant not be released.

         The State moved for detention and submitted the following documents: the complaint-warrant, the affidavit of probable cause, the PSA, the PLEIR, and defendant's criminal history. The last document listed adult convictions as well as juvenile adjudications.

         Defense counsel objected and argued that the CJRA and court rules required the State to present a live witness to establish probable cause. Counsel also advanced a number of reasons why defendant ...


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.