In criminal law, there is only one case you truly need to know
Don’t you just hate it when you’re on your feet making a great, even brilliant, legal argument and suddenly, out of nowhere, the judge asks you for some case law to support your position? Well, if this outrageous experience ever happens to you in a civil case, I can’t give you any advice. But when you are arguing a criminal case and you suddenly need to provide some law, just cite “State v. Johnson.” You can never go wrong because you’ll always be right! There’s nothing deceptive or underhanded about it. That’s because somewhere, there is a State v. Johnson supporting the precise legal proposition you need. Check it out. As of Oct. 10, 2012, there have been 392 written decisions in New Jersey captioned State v. Johnson. The vast majority of these have been approved for publication. Moreover, the collection of Johnsons includes a large number of landmark decisions in criminal law. Just consider the following Johnson cases you can pretend to know about when you’re stuck for the name of a criminal case during an argument.
• State v. Johnson, 42 N.J. 146 (1964).
This is the granddaddy of all the Johnsons. As of today, it has been cited 2,825 times in published decisions since 1964. While most landmark decisions have one main issue, this case has five!
• State v. Johnson, 168 N.J. 608 (2001). Before the cops smash your door down without knocking, they had better read this Johnson. It details the law of “no-knock” search warrants. So far, it has been cited 100 times in 11 years.
Apart from the foregoing, a few of the runners-up include:
• State v. Johnson, 421 N.J. Super. 511 (App. Div. 2011) (Mug shots in court) (cited 3 times);
• State v. Johnson, 376 N.J. Super. 163 (App. Div. 2005) (Illegal Sentences) (cited 31 times);
• State v. Johnson, 365 N.J. Super. 27 (App. Div. 2003) (Ineffective assistance) (cited 56 times);
• State v. Johnson, 127 N.J. 458 (1992) (Entrapment) (cited 94 times);
• State v. Johnson, 120 N.J. 263 (1990) (Inevitable discovery) (cited 257 times);
• State v. Johnson, 118 N.J. 639 (1990) (Escape) (cited 95 times);
• State v. Johnson, 203 N.J. Super. 436 (Law Div. 1985) (DWI on a Bike) (cited 22 times); and
• State v. Johnson, 186 N.J. Super. 423 (App. Div. 1982) (Probation hearings) (cited 9 times).
Got the general idea? Good! Now let’s practice. Picture yourself in court saying, “Well, as Your Honor may know, in State v. Johnson, the court held [insert relevant argument on criminal law legal topic]. I’ll be happy to provide Your Honor with the citation later.” See? So simple, even a lawyer can do it. Now if I could just find the name of a good civil case that has been cited 392 times. ■
Peyrouton is a creative attorney with a unique sense of humor, which helps him survive running a private practice in Hudson County.
Reprinted with permission from the OCTOBER 29, 2012 edition of New Jersey Law Journal . © 2012 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All rights reserved. Further duplication without permission is prohibited.