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State v. E.H. Miller Transportation Co.

Decided: June 5, 1962.

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
E.H. MILLER TRANSPORTATION COMPANY, INC., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Price, Goldmann and Lewis. The opinion of the court was delivered by Lewis, J.A.D.

Lewis

Defendant E.H. Miller Transportation Company, Inc., appeals from a conviction for violating the highway weight limitation statute N.J.S.A. 39:3-84 (amendment L. 1961, c. 113, sec. 3, is not here applicable). The substance of defendant's contention is that a conviction under said statute may not be sustained by evidence obtained (1) by public scales located more than two road miles (although within a radius of two miles) from the place of interception, nor (2) by portable scales at a place other than where the vehicle was stopped.

The essential facts are these. On April 26, 1961, at approximately 3:30 P.M., State Trooper Trainor halted defendant's tractor-trailer, driven by one of its employees, while it was traveling eastwardly on the New Jersey Turnpike. The interception took place at the Communipaw interchange in Jersey City. The driver informed the officer that he was transporting 400 bags of coffee weighing 130 pounds each and was destined for the waterfront near the Holland Tunnel entrance to New York. The estimated gross weight was computed by the trooper to be in excess of 60,000 pounds, the registered maximum gross weight capacity of the tractor-trailer. The trooper forthwith escorted the vehicle and its operator to the nearest State certified public scales which were located at 13th and Provost Streets in Jersey City, a distance of 2.7 road miles and less than a two-mile radius (radius estimated to be 1.8 or 1.9 miles)

from the point of interception. When it was discovered that the gross weight of the truck exceeded the 81,000 pound certifying capacity of said public scales, Trooper Trainor radioed the Morristown police headquarters requesting portable scales, which were delivered shortly thereafter by State Trooper Saginario. The two troopers proceeded to ascertain the total weight by means of the portable scales.

A consequent "Summons and Complaint" was issued against defendant, charging it with a gross weight of 100,920 pounds -- an overweight of 40,920 pounds in excess of the legally allowable weight of 60,000 pounds. At the hearing before the Municipal Court of Jersey City on June 6, 1961, the magistrate disallowed any evidence as to the alleged weight ascertained by the use of the portable equipment, on the theory that such scales were not used at the situs of interception. He amended the complaint to read "a violation of 21,000 pounds overweight" which allegation was based on the difference between the maximum-weight capacity of the public scales (81,000 pounds) and the applicable gross statutory-weight limit (60,000 pounds). Defendant was found guilty as charged by the amended complaint and was fined $630 with $5 costs.

On appeal de novo to the Hudson County Court, the matter was submitted on a stipulation of facts and the oral argument of counsel. The trial judge found defendant guilty of violating N.J.S.A. 39:3-84 and imposed the same penalty as did the magistrate in the proceedings before the municipal court. Defendant appeals from that conviction.

In our review we are called upon to interpret the following statutory provision:

"Any State Police officer or motor vehicle inspector having reason to believe that the size or weight of a vehicle and load is unlawful is authorized to require the driver to stop and submit to a measurement or weighing of the same by means of either portable or stationary scales and may require that such vehicle be driven to the nearest public scales in the event such scales are within 2 miles." (N.J.S.A. 39:3-84.3, first paragraph)

Three distinct types of weight-measuring equipment -- portable, stationary and public scales -- are recognized by the Legislature in this enactment. The two-mile limit is applicable to public scales; no corresponding restriction is imposed upon the use of scales designated as "portable" or "stationary." The word "such" is a descriptive and relative expression and must be referred to the last antecedent (i.e. , "public scales"), unless the meaning of the sentence would thereby be impaired. See Summerman v. Knowles , 33 N.J.L. 202, 205 (Sup. Ct. 1868); 83 C.J.S. Such p. 771; Black's Law Dictionary (4 th ed. 1951), p. 1600. There is implicit in this statutory wording an intention to empower the state police officers and motor vehicle inspectors, in their law enforcing capacity, with discretion in the use of any or all of the three various weighing devices, limiting, however, the use of public scales to those within a space or area of two miles from the point of stoppage.

Defendant reads into the legislative phraseology an intendment to measure the mileage limitation by traffic miles. It is urged that the acceptance of "road miles" as a unit of measurement would be consonant with contemporary usage in determining distance relating to vehicular travel. We are directed to the statement in Sproles v. Binford , 286 U.S. 374, 52 S. Ct. 581, 76 L. Ed. 1167, 1182 (1932) that "The use of common experience as a glossary is necessary to meet the practical demands of legislation," and to State v. Russo , 6 N.J. Super. 250, 254 (App. Div. 1950), certif. denied 4 N.J. 456 (1950), for the familiar rule of construction that "the ordinary and popular meaning is to be given to words in a statute, unless it is evident that they are employed in a technical sense." In Russo we further stated, "It must be noted that liberal effect is always ...


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