When the State charges a person with committing a drug crime, it often must rely on circumstantial evidence to prove its case. While such evidence is generally admissible, inaccurate evidence is not, especially if it is prejudicial to the defendant. Thus, if the State relies on false statements in support of its claims a defendant committed a drug crime, it may be considered a violation of the defendant’s rights and may warrant a reversal of a conviction. What constitutes prejudicial evidence sufficient to vacate a guilty verdict was the topic of a recent New Jersey opinion in a case in which the defendant was convicted of multiple drug crimes after false statements were made to the jury. If you are charged with a drug offense, it is prudent to consult a New Jersey criminal defense attorney regarding your rights.
The Defendant’s Arrest and Trial
It is reported that the police surveilled the defendant at his mother’s home for about thirty days. They then obtained a search warrant and found drugs in the home, after which they arrested the defendant. He was charged with numerous drug crimes, and the matter proceeded to trial. During the trial, the State presented testimony indicating that drugs were obtained from the home three times prior to the defendant’s arrest and that the defendant visited the home during the middle of the night, neither of which was true. The defendant was convicted, after which he appealed, arguing in part that the admittance of prejudicial and false statements into evidence resulted in an unjust verdict.
Consequences of False Statements at Trial
Under New Jersey law, the likelihood of prejudice is strong when the evidence offered is proof of misconduct outside of the charged offense. For example, evidence of prior crimes increases the risk of conviction because it may persuade the jury that the defendant is an immoral person who is likely to commit crimes. Thus, a court may preclude evidence of other crimes unless it is for a permissible purpose, such as proof of intent, motive, opportunity, plan, or knowledge.