Failure to submit “Storm” Cert not harmless error – State v. Valentine

This morning’s Appellate Division decision in State v. Valentine creates a new and substantial rule of procedure in municipal court. In Valentine, the defendant was charged with domestic violence simple assault in a citizen’s complaint. When the municipal prosecutor declined to become involved in the prosecution, the complainant hired a private attorney to prosecute the matter. The private attorney never submitted a so-called “Storm Certification” as required under Rule 7:8-7(b) and the Supreme Court’s decision in State v. Storm, 141 N.J. 245 (1995). Upon conviction in municipal court, the Defendant appealed to the Law Division, which held that the failure to submit the Storm Certification by the private prosecutor was harmless error and, in any event, the defendant had received a fair trial in municipal court.

The Appellate Division reversed the Law Division and ruled that the abject failure by the private prosecutor to comply with Rule 7:8-7(b) and the requirements of State v. Storm do not constitute harmless error and require a reversal of the conviction. This holding sharply reverses several prior published decisions where the lack of a Storm Certification was viewed as harmless.

Download a copy of State v. Valentine

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