A New Jersey Supreme Court ruling this week could significantly affect not just law enforcement officers in the state, but also all public employees. The court this week ruled that a police officer who had been convicted of a sex crime - in this case, groping a woman- could return to police work.
The case relates to former Hunterdon County Sheriff's Officer Jeremiah Hupka, who pleaded guilty to groping his ex-girlfriend without her permission when she was drunk. The incident here occurred in 2006. Hupka pleaded guilty to fourth degree criminal sexual contact, and made a deal with the state. He agreed to enter a guilty plea in return for forfeiture of his law-enforcement job.
The Superior Court judge ruled that Hupka would be barred from holding a public sector job again. However Hupka appealed, and the Supreme Court has now ruled in his favor. It was a 3-2 ruling. In its ruling, the state's highest court says that there was no link between the crime and Hupka’s employment as a police officer. With this ruling, Hupka will now be eligible for work in a public position, including in the police and fire departments.
Obviously, a decision like this has a major impact on other public-sector employees who may be placed in this position in the future. It's no wonder therefore, that prosecutors are falling over themselves to declare their objection to this ruling. The New Jersey criminal defense lawyer fraternity has been very encouraged by this decision.
Any concerns about Hupka’s ability to investigate sex crimes in the future, should not even be an issue here. It's important to look at the degree of the crime relative to the punishment. It was important that this event was not done while on duty and was not related to his job as a law enforcement officer.