STATE OF NEW JERSEY VS. ELEX HYMAN
The principal issue in this appeal from drug-related convictions was whether it was error to admit as lay opinion testimony under N.J.R.E. 701 the lead investigative detective's interpretation of drug-related slang and code words that defendant and others used in wiretapped conversations. The court concludes that the detective, who did not converse with the speakers, offered an expert opinion based on his training and experience. However, the court rejects defendant's argument that even as an expert, the detective was not permitted to opine about the meaning of words as defendant used them. The court also rejects the suggestion that investigative detectives are categorically barred from testifying as experts. Inasmuch as the State established the detective's qualifications as an expert, and in light of the other evidence of defendant's guilt, the court concludes that the mistaken admission of the detective's testimony as lay opinion was harmless.