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State v. Bookbinder

Decided: October 10, 1963.

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
SIDNEY W. BOOKBINDER, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Goldmann, Kilkenny and Collester. The opinion of the court was delivered by Collester, J.A.D.

Collester

[82 NJSuper Page 180] The defendant appeals from a judgment of the County Court finding him guilty of speeding on May 9, 1962 on the New Jersey Turnpike in violation of N.J.S.A. 27:23-29 (more specifically section 2 of the regulations

relating to control of traffic on the New Jersey Turnpike, adopted by the Turnpike Authority pursuant to the statutes) and imposing a fine of $50 plus $5 costs. The adjudication was the result of a trial de novo on defendant's appeal from a conviction in the Municipal Court of the Borough of Carteret.

The original complaint charged that the defendant unlawfully operated his motor vehicle at a speed of 70 m.p.h. in a 60 m.p.h. zone.

The County Court judge filed a written opinion which is reported in 76 N.J. Super. 443. He stated therein that he found the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of having driven his automobile in excess of the permitted limit on the Turnpike, viz. , 60 m.p.h.

In his determination of the penalty to be imposed, including the question of revocation of the defendant's driver's license, the court made a factual finding by the preponderance of the evidence that the defendant was operating his vehicle at the rate of 70 m.p.h. He imposed the maximum fine provided for by the statute (N.J.S.A. 27:23-32 and 39:4-203) but did not revoke defendant's driver's license.

The court stated that, notwithstanding the fact that the essence of the charge was speeding in excess of the speed limit, he made such a factual finding of the exact speed defendant was driving in order that the Director of the Division of Motor Vehicles might have the background necessary to decide whether or not an administrative proceeding provided for under N.J.S.A. 39:5-30 should be held.

The defendant contends that the exact speed of one accused of violating the statute is an essential element of the offense charged and must be proved by the State beyond a reasonable doubt. He asserts that since the trial court found that defendant was operating his automobile at a speed of 70 m.p.h. by only a preponderance of the evidence , the conviction should be set aside.

It is well established that the prosecution of a defendant for a motor vehicle violation is a quasi-criminal proceeding. State v. Rowe , 116 N.J.L. 48, 51 (Sup. Ct. 1935),

affirmed 122 N.J.L. 466 (E. & A. 1939); State v. Emery , 27 N.J. 348 (1958); State v. Francis , 67 N.J. Super. 377 (App. Div. 1961). In such a proceeding the burden of proof is upon the State to establish all elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. State v. Cestone , 38 N.J. Super. 139 (App. Div. 1955); State v. Matchok , 14 N.J. Super. 359 (App. Div. 1951); State v. Miller , 58 N.J. Super. 538 (Cty Ct. 1959).

We do not agree with the defendant's argument that a finding of the exact speed at which the motor vehicle was driven is an essential element of the offense charged. In State v. Dantonio , 18 N.J. 570, 581 (1955), the Supreme Court held it is not essential that the court determine the precise speed at which the vehicle was being operated when the alleged offense occurred, and that the operator of the vehicle must be adjudged guilty if the evidence established, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the driver exceeded the statutory speed limit.

In this appeal, defendant does not allege any error in the County Court's finding him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of speeding on the New Jersey Turnpike. Nor could he justifiably do so since he frankly admitted at the trial that he was operating his automobile at a rate of speed in excess of the 60 m.p.h. limit then and there applicable. So, too, defendant does not question the penalty imposed for his admitted violation of the law. The $50 fine was authorized by N.J.S.A. 39:4-203 and the imposition thereof was within the sound discretion of the trial judge. Defendant makes no claim of any abuse of discretion. The County Court did not suspend defendant's driving privileges, evidently being motivated by the fact that the ...


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