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State v. Vreeland

Decided: December 17, 1958.

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
KENNETH M. VREELAND, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Goldmann, Conford and Haneman. The opinion of the court was delivered by Conford, J.A.D.

Conford

Defendant was convicted on a trial de novo in the Somerset County Court had upon the record made before the Municipal Court of Bedminster Township on a charge of driving while under the influence of alcoholic liquor, in violation of N.J.S.A. 39:4-50. Because the offense was a second one defendant was sentenced to serve three months in jail and his license revoked for ten years. The appeal is based upon the narrow ground that while the territorial jurisdiction of the municipal court is limited to offenses occurring within the area of the municipality wherein the court is held, N.J.S. 2 A:8-20, 21, subd. a , the complaint upon which defendant was prosecuted does not expressly state that the offense was committed in the Township of Bedminster, but only "north on RT 206." Route 206 runs through a number of municipalities, including Bedminster. The complaint is captioned "Municipal Court, Township of Bedminster."

In the agreed statement in lieu of record on appeal it is conceded by defendant that the case was tried on the merits in the municipal court and that there was evidence offered on the State's case that on the occasion in question defendant was driving a motor vehicle within the limits of the Township of Bedminster and was apprehended there while operating the car. There is therefore no question but that in fact and law the local court was legally authorized to assume jurisdiction over the subject matter of this offense and had such jurisdiction in this case unless it failed to attach by virtue solely of the failure of the complaint expressly to specify the Township of Bedminster as the locale of commission of the offense, as contended by defendant.

It is to be conceded that the general rule is that a complaint before a court of limited territorial jurisdiction must contain a recital of the facts supporting jurisdiction, including the fact of commission of the offense within the territory to which the court's jurisdiction extends. 22 C.J.S. Criminal Law ยง 374, p. 544. And see Ex parte Perse , 220 Mo. App. 406, 286 S.W. 733 (Ct. App. 1926); People v. Gregory , 30 Mich. 371 (Sup. Ct. 1874); Commonwealth ex rel. Taylor v. Clinton , 38 Pa. Super. 573 (Super. Ct. 1909); Commonwealth v. Weldon , 26 Northam. Law Rep. 383 (Cty. Ct. Pa. 1938); Commonwealth v. Barnard , 6 Gray Mass. , 488 (Sup. Jud. Ct. Mass. 1856).

R.R. 8:10-1 requires that in traffic cases the complaint shall be in conformance with Form 12, which includes a requirement for designation of the "location" of the place of commission of the offense. This, however, would seem more designed to apprise the defendant and the trial court of a fact relevant to the merits of any controversy concerning the substance of the offense than a requirement intended to be basic to the court's jurisdiction.

Defendant cites no case wherein it has been held in a factual background affirmatively demonstrating that the offense was committed within the court's territorial jurisdiction that the failure of the complaint expressly to state that fact is fatal to the court's jurisdiction over the subject matter. Nor do we find any.

In State v. Sexton , 141 Mo. App. 694, 125 S.W. 519, 521 (Ct. App. 1910), it is stated:

"It is a general rule that, inasmuch as the justice of the peace has only such jurisdiction as the statute confers upon him the facts giving such jurisdiction must affirmatively appear on the face of the proceedings."

Were we to apply that rule here jurisdiction would attach since the record of the present proceedings is inclusive of the proof at the trial showing that the offense was committed in Bedminster. Note in this connection that the municipal court is a court of record. Board of Health, Weehawken v.

New York Central R. Co. , 10 N.J. 284, 290 (1952). In Ex parte Hartman , 9 Cal. 2 d 583, 71 P. 2 d 921 (Sup. Ct. 1937), a closely comparable case, it was held that while "good pleading" required the complaint expressly to state that the offense was committed within the boundaries by which the territorial jurisdiction of a Justice's court was limited, nevertheless where that fact appeared "on trial" the objection would not suffice to reverse a conviction on appeal.

It is readily to be granted that the record of any judicial proceedings should as a matter of good practice reflect those facts which support the jurisdiction of the court over the subject matter in order to minimize the possibility of the undue assumption of power by an unauthorized tribunal. In the present case the magistrate or the County Court should, on objection, have amended the complaint to state the place of commission of the offense. But this is not to say that where in fact jurisdiction exists its exercise should be nullified after the ...


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