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State v. Dicarlo

Decided: May 13, 1975.

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, APPELLANT,
v.
PAUL DICARLO, RESPONDENT



For reversal -- Chief Justice Hughes and Justices Mountain, Sullivan, Pashman and Clifford. For affirmance -- None. The opinion of the Court was delivered by Mountain, J. Pashman, J., concurring. Pashman, J., concurring in the result.

Mountain

[67 NJ Page 323] Defendant was convicted in the Gloucester Township Municipal Court of having violated N.J.S.A. 39:4-50(a). This statute provides for the imposition of a fine or prison sentence, as well as temporary forfeiture of driving privileges, in the event a person is found to have been operating a motor vehicle ". . . while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, [or a] narcotic, hallucinogenic or habit-producing drug. . . ." The judgment of conviction was appealed to the Camden County Court where defendant was again found guilty following a trial de novo on the record. The sentence imposed in each court was the same: a fine of $200 plus court costs of $15 and a two-year suspension of driving privileges.

The Appellate Division, in an unreported opinion, reversed defendant's conviction and we thereafter granted the State's petition for certification. 65 N.J. 572 (1974).

At the trial before the Municipal Court judge the arresting officer testified that he initially observed defendant traveling at a high rate of speed. He also noticed that the vehicle kept crossing the center line of the highway and that it veered to the wrong side of the road in negotiating a turn. Approaching a stop light, the car was driven midway through the intersection before being brought to a halt. At that point the officer observed defendant open the car door; it appeared he was about to fall out. Upon observing the officer, defendant succeeded in closing the door. After the vehicle had proceeded through the intersection, the officer flashed his red light and brought the car to a stop. As defendant left his automobile and approached the police vehicle, he was "staggering about" and "swaying a little bit." Upon being questioned, he denied having been drinking, but agreed to perform several balancing tests, all of which he failed. Defendant was consistently polite and gave the officer no trouble. At the police station he again failed all but one of the balancing tests. Blood and urine samples were obtained. Laboratory analysis revealed the presence, in the urine sample, of a drug known as methaqualone.

The Appellate Division reversed the conviction upon two grounds. It held first that the meaning of the term, "narcotic drug," as set forth in the Controlled Dangerous Substances Act, N.J.S.A. 24:21-2, provides the definition that should be applied to the same term as it appears in N.J.S.A. 39:4-50(a), the statute under which defendant was convicted. It found that methaqualone did not come within that definition. Secondly, the Court concluded that even were the statutory definition held to be inapplicable, the evidence at the trial had been insufficient to justify a finding that methaqualone was in fact a "narcotic drug."

As to the first issue, in order to support the view of the Appellate Division that the definition of "narcotic drug" found in the Controlled Dangerous Substances Act should be given controlling weight in interpreting the same phrase appearing in the statute under which defendant was convicted, it must be found that the two enactments are in pari materia. It is true that each may be said to pertain, in a way, to the same subject matter -- narcotic drugs. But there the similarity ends. The statutes clearly do not have the same purpose or object, and it is identity or similarity of purpose or object that most convincingly justifies resort to the rule of in pari materia as an aid in statutory construction. The adventitious occurrence of like or similar phrases, or even of similar subject matter, in laws enacted for wholly different ends will normally not justify applying the rule.

As between characterization of the subject matter with which a statute deals and characterization of its object or purpose, the latter appears to be the more important factor in determining whether different statutes are closely enough related to justify interpreting one in the light of the other. For example, it has been held that where the same subject is treated in several acts having different objects the rule of in pari materia does not apply. [2A Sutherland, Statutory Construction, ยง 51.03, p. 298 (4th ed. 1973)]

It seems clear that the purposes of the two statutes are quite different. N.J.S.A. 39:4-50 seeks to prevent the operation of motor vehicles by those whose faculties are so impaired as to present a danger to the safety of others as well as themselves. State v. Sturn, 119 N.J. Super. 80, 82 (App. Div. 1972), certif. den., 61 N.J. 157 (1972). On the other hand the Controlled Dangerous Substances Act, N.J.S.A. 24:21-1 et seq., as well as earlier and similar legislation which it superseded, has had as its object the suppression of illegal traffic in narcotic drugs. State v. Reed, 34 N.J. 554, 564 (1961); State v. Weissman, 73 N.J. Super. 274, 282 (App. Div. 1962), certif. den. 37 N.J. 521 (1962) (both referring to the Uniform Narcotic

Drug Act, the predecessor of the Controlled Dangerous Substances Act). Thus, in enacting N.J.S.A. 39:4-50, the legislative concern was not with the specific type of drug used, but rather with the effect that its ingestion by a driver would have upon his own safety as well as that of the general public. Given this broader purpose, we feel no compulsion to restrict the application of this statute by finding it to be in pari materia with the Controlled Dangerous Substances Act.

An examination of motor vehicle legislation in the 1964-65 session of the Legislature furnishes additional support for this conclusion. L. 1964, c. 289,*fn1 entitled "An Act concerning motor vehicles and traffic regulation," forbids the operation of a motor vehicle by any person "while knowingly having in his possession or in the motor vehicle any narcotic drug within the meaning of section 24:18-2 of the Revised Statutes. . . ." The subject matter of this last cited statute, part of the Uniform Narcotic Drug Law, was the same as N.J.S.A. 24:21-2, the superseding provision in our present Controlled Dangerous Substances Act. At the same session of the Legislature the statute under which defendant was here convicted, N.J.S.A. 39:4-50, was amended. L. 1964, c. 137. This amendatory act, like L. 1964, c. 289 cited above, was also entitled, "An Act concerning motor vehicles and traffic regulation." As was true of the statute it amended, this enactment made no reference to the Drug Act. The passage at the same legislative session of these two statutes, both concerning motor vehicles and traffic regulation, each touching upon the subject of ...


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