The sole issue to be resolved in this case is whether the New Jersey State weighing station in Wayne is a public scale within the meaning of N.J.S.A. 39:3-84.3. If the statute is construed to include such scales, then the two-mile limitation applies; otherwise it does not.
The statute itself sets out the standards and penalties to be applied. It seems clearly to restrict the law enforcement officers who are empowered to act thereunder to motor vehicle inspectors and state police officers. The statute gives these officers the discretion to determine what type of scale to use
in fulfilling their duties so long as the statutory limitations are observed. Problems arise in this area which are highlighted by State v. Metropolitan Iron and Steel Co., 62 N.J. Super. 412 (Cty. Ct. 1960), which will be discussed later. The Legislature has not defined "public scales" in the Motor Vehicle Act, Revised Statutes, Title 39. The body of law dealing with this problem is very limited.
The facts in the case at bar are undisputed. The truck was 11,640 pounds overweight. The scale at Wayne is outside the two-mile radial limit set by the statute.
State scales, while public in the general sense that the State owns them, are not available to the general public's use. They are not scales for hire.
The legislative policy behind N.J.S.A. 39:3-84 is set out in Fortugno Realty Co. v. Schiavone-Bonomo Corp., 39 N.J. 382, 392 (1963), where the court, quoting from State v. Gratale Bros., Inc., 26 N.J. Super. 581, 584 (App. Div. 1953) said:
"'* * * What the Legislature had in mind * * * was the protection of our highways and highway structures -- subject as they are to the extraordinary use and ever-increasing volume of commercial traffic crossing and recrossing our State -- from damage by overweight vehicles. * * *'"
and from State v. E.H. Miller Transportation Co., 74 N.J. Super. 474, 479 (App. Div. 1962),
"'The history of our statutes relating to highway weight-limitations clearly indicates the legislative design to protect the roads, highways and people of the State from the hazards and destructive consequences that attend transportation by over-weight vehicles. * * *'"
The statute involved is penal and quasi -criminal in nature. As such, it must be strictly construed. As stated in State v. E.H. Miller Transportation Co., supra:
"* * * However, the rule of strict construction does not prevent a court from reading the statute in relation to the evil or mischief to be suppressed, State v. ...