A recent ruling from the New Jersey High Court will stop prosecutors from using past convictions involving a false identity from being used against a person in an upcoming trial, unless the false identity has direct bearing on the case at hand. In State v. Parker, Judge Ariel Rodriguez cited the New Jersey Rule of Evidence 405, stating that alias use must be specific. New Jersey Criminal Lawyers say that this ruling will protect persons charged with a crime from having their past records used against them in irrelevant ways.
The high court’s ruling states that specific instances of conduct or actions—in this case, the use of an fake name—that is not related to a criminal conviction is off-limits for impeaching a defendant’s credibility at a current trial. Unless the defendant has been previously convicted of operating under an alias for the specific purpose of giving law enforcement officials false information, the use of an alias cannot be brought up as evidence against him or her by the prosecution in a current court case.
Jarrett Parker was arrested after he, along with a group of other men, attacked another man outside of his car. Parker then stole the car, which contained the 2-year-old daughter of the victim’s girlfriend. He drove down the block and crashed through a fence, where police apprehended him. Both Parker and the child were not injured in the crash. Parker was charged with kidnapping, carjacking, criminal restraint, and endangering the welfare of a child. At his trial, an Essex County judge allowed the prosecutor to use prior arrest records for Parker, who had been using two separate aliases at the times—Jarrod Parks and Dashon Price.
Although he was arrested for the car snatching and booked under his real name, Parker’s credibility was called into question, and the prosecutor used the evidence of convictions that included alias use as an attempt to prove that Parker would “lie to benefit himself.” Parker was eventually convicted by the jury of carjacking, but acquitted on the kidnapping and endangering charges.
Although the Appellate Division upheld this ruling, the state Supreme Court reversed it, finding that the state could not use N.J.R.E. 607 to allow alias evidence from prior convictions to impugn Parker’s credibility. The judges found that Parker’s prior use of aliases on his arrest record could have been used to question his reliability by demonstrating that he did have a prior arrest record, but by drawing direct attention to his use of false identities, the prosecution violated N.J.R.E. 405(a) and 608. Parker was never convicted of giving false information to the police, and so his alias use could not be directly used as extrinsic evidence against him.
The state Supreme Court’s clarification will prevent prosecutors from using unrelated crimes or criminal activity against those in trouble with the law, criminal lawyers in New Jersey say. A person can end up with an incorrect name on record through a variety of reasons beyond their control, such as spelling or clerical errors. These instances of fake names are, in fact, not due to an attempt by the defendant to deceive, and should not be held against him or her in a criminal case.
At New Jersey law firm Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA, our criminal attorneys represent anyone who has been convicted based on irrelevant or unlawful use of prior records at trial. Contact an HCK criminal attorney for a consultation about your case today.