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State v. Tucker

Decided: April 27, 1960.

THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
ARCHIE TUCKER, JR., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Price, Gaulkin and Sullivan. The opinion of the court was delivered by Gaulkin, J.A.D.

Gaulkin

Defendant was convicted upon a complaint which charged him with "misuse of dealer's plates" in violation of N.J.S.A. 39:3-18, and he appeals.

The parties have stipulated the following facts:

"John M. Saums, hereinafter called 'dealer,' has been a dealer in refrigeration and heating equipment and kindred lines for the past 25 years, in the Borough of Flemington, County of Hunterdon, State of New Jersey. In the year 1947 said dealer expanded his business by including therein the sale and servicing of farm equipment, machinery, and tractors, and he has since said date continued to operate said combined business. The aforesaid business is operated by John M. Saums individually, as one unit or business, with one set of books and records, in one main office and building, and all office employees, as well as salesmen, employees, and mechanics work on any assigned job, whether it be on the refrigerating or heating equipment part of the business, or on the farm machinery equipment or the tractor part of said business. There are no mechanics or employees assigned to any particular part of the business. The servicing and sale of farm machines, equipment and tractors consists of about 70% of the business of said dealer. Employees are occasionally required to do some plumbing and electrical work in connection with the installation of heating and refrigerating equipment.

Said dealer has, in all, about 14 automobiles and trucks which are used in said business. He has been licensed as a dealer (first by the former Commissioner of Motor Vehicles and then by the Director of Motor Vehicles of the Department of Law and Public Safety) since 1947 and presently has 3 sets of plates, each set containing 5 plates, in accordance with the statute hereinafter mentioned. Each automobile and truck as aforesaid is owned and registered in the name of John M. Saums.

On June 10, 1959, Archie Tucker, Jr., Defendant-Appellant, was a regular employee of the said John M. Saums, and was operating a truck, with dealer's plates thereon owned and registered in the name of said dealer, on a public highway going to the Bordentown Military Institute, either to deliver some pipes or do some plumbing work in connection with equipment that had been purchased by said Institute from the said John M. Saums. Said truck was being used in the regular employment and business of the dealer. Defendant-Appellant was stopped by a member of the New Jersey State Police

and a ticket or summons was issued to him charging him with violation of N.J.S.A. 39:3-18 (as amended) -- 'Misuse of Dealer's tags.'

At the time of the alleged violation John M. Saums was a duly licensed dealer."

Counsel makes no point of the fact that defendant Tucker was merely the employee of the dealer Saums. Cf. N.J.S.A. 39:3-33. The case has been presented to us by appellant as if Saums himself were the defendant, apparently because (to quote defendant's brief):

"The issue before the Court is one of primary importance * * * as it affects hundreds of dealers * * * to whom the Director has issued dealer's licenses and registrations. Recently this dealer and other dealers have been the target of successive summonses alleging violation of this statute."

The sum and substance of defendant's argument is that N.J.S.A. 39:3-18 is plain and unambiguous and must be construed to mean (as he says in his brief) that "a bona fide , duly licensed dealer in motor vehicles or motor driven vehicles doing business in this state may use his registration and plates on any vehicle owned by him, without limitation save that it is not for hire."

Defendant concedes that if it were not for Saums' status as a dealer, the truck in question would have to be registered as a "commercial vehicle" under N.J.S.A. 39:1-1 and N.J.S.A. 39:3-20. Therefore, the only question we are called upon to decide is whether registration under section 18 frees a dealer from the obligation of registering under section 20 "commercial vehicles" which he does not use in the dealership but in a non-dealership ...


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