Conford, Collester and Labrecque. The opinion of the court was delivered by Collester, J.A.D.
Defendant was convicted in the Municipal Court of Hamilton Township of leaving the scene of an accident in violation of N.J.S.A. 39:4-129. On appeal following a trial de novo in the County Court the conviction was affirmed and a fine of $25 and costs were imposed. He appeals.
The facts set forth in the agreed statement in lieu of record show that at about 11:20 P.M. on July 10, 1966, defendant entered his automobile parked in his driveway and backed it across the street into the driveway of Mr. and Mrs. Bitler. It struck the rear of Mr. Bitler's automobile which, in turn, collided with Mrs. Bitler's car -- both of which were parked in the driveway. At the time of the accident Mrs. Bitler was standing in her doorway watching defendant, whom she knew and who had been a neighbor for four years.
Mrs. Bitler testified that following the impact defendant drove his car forward, then backed it up so he could make a turn into the street and drove off without stopping. She said both Bitler cars were damaged by the collision.
Defendant testified that as he left his house to enter his car he observed Mrs. Bitler standing in the doorway of her home. As he backed across the street into the Bitler driveway he felt the impact of "bumpers tapping." He said he observed Mrs. Bitler still standing in her doorway, pulled his car forward and saw with the aid of his backup lights that there was no damage, then drove away. He further testified that no one approached him about the accident until a month and a half later when Mr. Bitler showed him a dent in the bumper of his car. Thereafter he bought a new bumper for Mr. Bitler.
The County Court judge found that defendant made no attempt to stop at the scene of the accident in order to assess
the damage caused by the collision or to notify the owners of the damaged cars. He said defendant's testimony that he assumed Mrs. Bitler knew who had hit the cars did not fulfill the requirement of the statute. He concluded that the provisions of N.J.S.A. 39:4-129 were violated even though the collision did not occur on a public highway. This appeal followed.
The "hit-and-run" statute, N.J.S.A. 39:4-129, in effect on the date of the accident (it has been subsequently amended) provided in pertinent part:
"The driver of any vehicle knowingly involved in an accident resulting in injury or death to a person or damage to property shall immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident, give his name and address and exhibit his operator's license and registration certificate of his vehicle to the person injured or struck and to any police officer or witness of the accident, and to the driver or occupants of the vehicle collided with * * *" (Emphasis added)
Defendant first alleges the trial court erred in denying his motion to dismiss the complaint on the grounds that (1) Mrs. Bitler knew he was the driver of the car involved in the accident, and (2) he did not know that the Bitler cars sustained damage.
We are satisfied that both contentions are without merit. The purpose of the hit-and-run statute is to prohibit an automobile driver involved in an accident from evading his responsibilities by escaping or departing before his identity is made known. State v. Gill, 47 N.J. 441, 443 (1966).
It is undisputed that defendant knew his automobile struck Mr. Bitler's car, that he made no attempt to comply with the requirements of the statute and drove away. The fact that he saw Mrs. Bitler in her doorway and assumed that she had witnessed the collision and knew that he was the operator of the car is no defense to his failure to comply with the mandatory requirements of the statute. Cf. Commonwealth ...