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State v. Jahn

Decided: July 29, 1972.

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
ROBERT F. JAHN, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Yaccarino, J.c.c.

Yaccarino

Defendant appeals from a conviction in the Municipal Court of Belmar of excessive speed, in violation of N.J.S.A. 39:4-98(b). The appeal was a trial de novo.

Following the trial the municipal court judge entered a finding of not guilty as to the careless driving charge, then,

on his own motion, amended the complaint and entered a finding of guilty on the offense of driving at excessive speed, in violation of N.J.S.A. 39:4-98(b).

Two issues are presented. The first issue to be considered is whether the municipal court had the power and authority by virtue of the New Jersey Court Rules to amend the complaint of careless driving to speeding, which is not a lesser included offense.

R. 7:10-2 provides:

The court may amend any process or pleading for any omission or defect therein, or for any variance between the complaint and the evidence adduced at the trial but no such amendment shall be permitted which charges a different substantive offense (other than a lesser included offense). If the defendant is surprised as a result of such amendment, the court shall adjourn the hearing to some future day, upon appropriate terms.

The above rule clearly states that a municipal court judge has the power to amend any process or pleading for any variance between the complaint and the evidence adduced at trial, but no such amendment shall be permitted which charges a different substantive offense, other than a lesser included offense. The issue then becomes whether speeding in violation of N.J.S.A. 39:4-98 (b) is a lesser included offense in a charge of violation of N.J.S.A. 39:4-97 (careless driving). No New Jersey authority is found. The two violations, "speeding" and "careless driving," are separate and distinct violations with different penalties.

Since New Jersey is silent on this issue, research was directed to other forums. The Supreme Court of New Hampshire decided this issue in State v. King , 105 N.H. 47, 192 A.2d 603 (1963). Defendant there was charged with a violation of a statute similar to New Jersey's careless driving statute. As in the instant matter, defendant was found guilty of operating a motor vehicle at an unreasonable rate of speed. The Supreme Court of New Hampshire held that

unreasonable speed was not an essential element of the offense charged and was not a lesser or included offense upon which ...


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