NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF CHILD PROTECTION AND PERMANENCY, Plaintiff-Respondent,
V. F., Defendant-Appellant. IN THE MATTER OF T.Q., A.Q., S.F., and VI.F., Minors.
October 29, 2018
appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division,
Family Part, Ocean County, Docket No. FN-15-0061-17.
Christine O. Saginor, Designated Counsel, argued the cause
for appellant (Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney;
Christine O. Saginor, of counsel and on the briefs).
Francis A. Raso, Deputy Attorney General, argued the cause
for respondent (Gurbir S. Grewal, Attorney General, attorney;
Melissa H. Raksa, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel;
Francis A. Raso, on the brief).
B. Crisp, Assistant Deputy Public Defender, argued the cause
for minors T.Q. and A.Q. (Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender,
Law Guardian, attorney; Olivia B. Crisp, on the brief).
Danielle Ruiz, Designated Counsel, argued the cause for
minors S.F. and Vi.F. (Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender,
Law Guardian, attorney; Danielle Ruiz, on the brief).
Judges Sabatino, Haas and Sumners.
appeals the Family Part's order that he abused or
neglected his minor children within the meaning of Title 9,
N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.21 to -8.73. The New Jersey Division of Child
Protection and Permanency (the Division) and the Law
Guardians urge us to affirm. We conclude that based upon a
logical extension of our ruling in State v.
Doriguzzi, 334 N.J.Super. 530, 536 (App. Div. 2000), the
trial court should not have considered the police
officer's testimony that defendant was under the
influence based upon the results of a horizontal gaze
nystagmus (HGN) test, which has not been shown to be
generally accepted as being scientifically reliable. However,
we conclude the order was consistent with the law because it
was supported by substantial independent credible evidence
that defendant was under the influence and that his conduct
created a substantial risk to the children's mental
health and physical safety. Therefore, we affirm.
facts developed at the Title 9 fact-finding hearing are
summarized as follows. On September 20, 2016, T.Q. (Trent),
twelve-years old, called his maternal grandmother, because he
was unable to wake his mother R.H. (Rina) at their Jackson
Township home. At home with Trent were defendant, A.Q.
(Abby), ten-years old, S.F. (Skylar), eight-years old, and
Vi.F. (Von), four-days old. Defendant is the biological
father of Skylar and Von. Rina is the mother of all four
children, and gave birth to Von through a Caesarean section.
Upon arriving at the house, the grandmother found Rina
unresponsive and called the police.
police officers Andrea Falzarano, Chris Kelly, and Greg
Schmidt arrived at the house shortly after 4:30 p.m., they
found Rina unresponsive; partially lying on a mattress and on
the floor. Officer Falzarano testified he saw defendant
kneeling on the mattress, hunched over next to Rina. He asked
defendant if he knew what Rina was on, whether she took
anything, or if she was in any kind of pain. He repeated
these questions three times, until defendant eventually
responded, "I don't know." Officer Falzarano
noticed that defendant was moving very slow, had slurred
speech, droopy eyes, and grasped the wall and stumbled while
trying to stand.
unsuccessfully tried to wake Rina. Officer Schmidt then
unsuccessfully tried to wake her by administering a sternum
rub. First aid responders arrived moments later, and they
unsuccessfully attempted to wake Rina by giving her a dose of
Narcan, to counteract the effect of any narcotic she may have
taken. Rina was taken to a local hospital where she was
officers did not search the residence and did not see any
drugs in plain view. The grandmother gave Officer Falzarano a
bottle of oxycodone, which was prescribed to Rina upon her
release from the hospital. However, he could not remember how
many pills were in the bottle, but believed it was a sixty
count, and that ten to fifteen were missing. He described
Trent to be "very torn, very distraught, crying[, ] . .
. shaking, [and] a ...