The New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division recently ruled that a firefighter who has called in false alarms, goes to respond to the false alarms that he called in, and is convicted for Official Misconduct, N.J.S.A. 2C:30-2, as a result of this behavior, can not be convicted separately for the setting of the false alarms, N.J.S.A. 2C:33-3. In the case of State v. Quezada, 33-2-1431, Judge Stern, the Presiding Judge of the Appellate Division, reasoned that under the legal doctrine of "merger", the defendant could not be convicted of setting false alarms due to the fact that the actual official misconduct (calling in false alarms) was the underlying basis of the charge.
Official Misconduct as it relates to public employees and their office is a second degree crime and carries a maximum prison term of 10 years. Furthermore, the New Jersey criminal code lists a presumption of incarceration for second degree criminal convictions, meaning a court must specify why imprisonment is not imposed in a particular case. In essence, a Public Safety Officer who strays from path truth and justice and is in hot water, may be able to avoid the conviction of the underlying offense that was the basis for the conviction of Official Misconduct.