Off-Duty Officer Must Forfeit Job Following Conviction – State v. Rodriguez

In State v. Rodriguez, an off-duty police officer was involved in a motor vehicle accident that resulted in the death of a pedestrian. Following a jury trial, he was convicted of third degree leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident as well as the traffic offenses of leaving the scene and reckless driving.

As required by New Jersey law, the trial judge order a forfeiture of public office based upon the conviction for a third degree crime. (NJSA 2C:51-2(a)(1)). However, the judge also entered an order forever barring the defendant from holding any position in any political subdivision of the State of New Jersey. Such a forfeiture is required for offenses “touching upon the office” of a defendant. (NJSA 2C:51-2(d)).

In two previously published cases involving a forfeiture related to off-duty offenses committed by police officers, each of the defendants had used a firearm. This defendant’s case only involved a criminal charge of leaving the scene of an accident.

The Appellate Division affirmed the forfeiture and held that since it is the duty of a police officer to report to accident scenes and attend to injured parties there, the failure of a police officer to do so, even while off-duty, is sufficiently related to his duties that it “touches upon” his office.

Download a copy of State vs. Rodriguez.

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