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NJ Court Rules That Public Employee Loses His Job for Destroying Evidence

Posted on May 08, 2011
Under New Jersey law, anyone holding public office or employment must forfeit same if he or she is convicted of an "offense involving dishonesty." (N.J.S.A. 2C:51-2) There are very few cases in our courts involving this law, but last week, in the case of State v. Kennedy, the New Jersey Appellate Division ruled that the criminal offense of tampering with physical evidence is a crime involving dishonesty. As a result, the defendant, an employee with the Department of Public Works, was required to forfeit his public employment.

In this particular case, the defendant was convicted of tampering with evidence (he swallowed heroin that was found in his possession). What is of note here is that although the criminal misconduct did not relate to his public employment, nor was it a serious enough crime to meet the statute's threshold (it was a fourth degree crime, and the statute requires it be third degree or above), the Court still ruled that forfeiture is mandatory because tampering with physical evidence is, as a matter of law, an offense involving dishonesty.

What is also important to note here is that this is only the second time that the Appellate Division has had the occasion to rule on whether the violation a particular statute constitutes an offense involving dishonesty (State v. Musto, 188 NJ Super. 106 (App. Div. 1983)). All of the other cases under this statute relate to the concept of "touching on the public office."