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State v. Mundy

Decided: February 20, 1970.

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MELINDA E. MUNDY, DEFENDANT



Bachman, J.c.c.

Bachman

Defendant was convicted of driving 36 miles an hour on Old Raritan Road between Inman Avenue and King Street in Edison. The State alleges this to be a residence district in which the speed limit is 25 miles an hour under N.J.S.A. 39:4-98. Defendant admits she drove at that speed but denies that the area involved is a "residence district." She maintains that in the area involved the speed limit is 50 miles an hour and that the conviction in the Municipal court of Edison for speeding was erroneous. Thus, the central issue on this trial de novo is whether Old Raritan Road, at the point where the alleged violation occurred, is a "residence district" where the statutory speed limit is 25 miles per hour. A residence district is defined in N.J.S.A. 39:1-1 as follows:

Our speeding statute prescribes a maximum speed of 25 miles an hour for any "residence district." N.J.S.A. 39:4-98.

Defendant contends that the State has failed in its burden of proving that the area involved was in fact a residence district.

State v. Miller , 58 N.J. Super. 538 (Cty. Ct. 1959). Specifically, defendant avers that the prosecution has not shown that the area involved has "buildings" which occupy at least 300 feet of building frontage on at least one side of the highway to sustain the conviction.

The testimony and evidence given was essentially as follows: The State introduced into evidence a tax map showing the area involved. Police officer Cook testified that the alleged violation took place on Old Raritan Road in the section close to King Street and in the direction of Inman Avenue. He further testified that there were several homes occupied in the area in question, and that it was a residential area. He also testified that the area on the right hand side of Old Raritan Road between Webb and King Street was fully occupied by homes, and that this area was over 600 feet.

Defendant then produced one Jeney, a Metuchen real estate broker. He testified that he examined the area involved and found that the total length of the area between King Street to Inman Avenue was 611.65 feet. Jeney then testified that 60% of this area on one side had residences, but that their total structural frontage was less than 300 feet. He further testified that next 600 feet on the easterly side of Old Raritan Road from King Street to Webb Street was 100% residential but that the eight homes on that side had a total structural frontage of only 279.51 feet.

Defendant contends that the language in the pertinent statutory definition applied to building frontage rather than land frontage. Accordingly, she argues that the area in question did not meet the requisite 300 feet of building frontage on one side of the highway necessary for a conviction. She cites State v. Zeus , 56 N.J. Super. 323 (Cty. Ct. 1959), and State v. Bastian , 78 N.J. Super. 49 (Cty. Ct. 1962), as legal authority for that proposition.

In Zeus, supra the court ruled that the dimension of 300 feet in the residence district statute applied to the buildings only. This decision was reaffirmed by way of dictum in

Bastian. Although both Union County cases present an interesting interpretation to the statutory definition of "residence district," this court is of the opinion that it need not be bound by them. It is axiomatic that a County Court must take into consideration an opinion of another court of equal jurisdiction, but such opinion is not binding. State v. Patfol, Inc. , 71 N.J. Super. 404, 408 (Cty. Ct. 1961), rev'd on other grounds 76 N.J. Super. 287 (App. Div. 1962); Ferraro v. Ferro Trucking Co. , 72 N.J. Super. 519, 523 (Law Div. 1962); Wolf v. Home Insurance Co. , 100 N.J. Super. 27, 35, 36 (Law Div. 1968).

This court holds that the Union County Courts have misconstrued what a "residence district" is under N.J.S.A. 39:1-1. The basis for their finding is found in a comment by Judge Clapp of the Appellate Division in Melone v. Jersey Central Power & Light Co. , 30 N.J. Super. 95 (App. Div. 1954). In describing a residence district under N.J.S.A. 39:1-1 he said that "to constitute any 600 feet a residence district, there must be, at least, on one side of the street, for example 10 buildings, each averaging 30 feet front, each on a lot averaging 60 ...


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