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State v. Green

Decided: April 16, 1986.

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
ANDREW GREEN, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Monmouth County.

Michels, Gaulkin and Deighan. The opinion of the court was delivered by Michels, P.J.A.D.

Michels

[209 NJSuper Page 348] Defendant Andrew Green was found guilty in the Municipal Court of the Borough of Monmouth Beach of both operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor in violation of N.J.S.A. 39:4-50 and careless driving in violation of N.J.S.A. 39:4-97. In imposing sentence, the Municipal Court Judge merged defendant's conviction for careless driving into his conviction for driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, suspended defendant's driving privileges for six months and fined him $250. Defendant appealed to the Law Division where, following a trial de novo on the record below,

defendant was again found guilty of violating N.J.S.A. 39:4-50 and the same sentence was imposed upon him.

I.

Defendant seeks a reversal of his conviction contending first that, under the holding of the United States Supreme Court in Berkemer v. McCarty, 468 U.S. 420, 104 S. Ct. 3138, 82 L. Ed. 2d 317 (1984), testimony regarding statements made by him, as well as testimony relating to the results of his field sobriety and breathalyzer testing, should not have been admitted into evidence. Defendant argues essentially that the Berkemer decision is applicable in this case, as it sets forth "a framework upon which police officers are to act in the performance of their duties when they stop a proposed suspect in regard to a drunk driving violation." Relying upon this decision, defendant claims, among other things, that he should have been given Miranda warnings "at the time when he was detained pursuant to the [subject] traffic stop and thereafter subjected to treatment that rendered him in custody for all practical purposes." We disagree.

In Berkemer v. McCarty, supra, the Court considered two related questions. The first issue was whether its decision in Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S. Ct. 1602, 16 L. Ed. 2d 694 (1966), should govern the admissibility of statements made during custodial interrogation by a suspect accused of a misdemeanor traffic offense. The second issue related to whether the roadside questioning of a motorist detained pursuant to a traffic stop should constitute custodial interrogation for purposes of applying the Miranda doctrine. In considering whether the Miranda doctrine should be applicable to the custodial questioning of suspects accused of misdemeanor traffic offenses, the court first noted that the Fifth Amendment provides that "[n]o person . . . shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself. . . ." 468 U.S. at , 104 S. Ct. at 3144, 82 L. Ed. 2d at 327 (citing U.S. Const., Amend. V).

Writing for the Berkemer Court, Justice Marshall reiterated the holding in Miranda v. Arizona, indicating that:

[T]he prosecution may not use statements, whether exculpatory or inculpatory, stemming from custodial interrogation of [a] defendant unless it demonstrates the use of procedural safeguards effective to secure the privilege against self-incrimination. By custodial interrogation, we mean questioning initiated by law enforcement officers after a person has been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way. [468 U.S. at , 104 S. Ct. at 3144-45, 82 L. Ed. 2d at 327 (citing Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 444, 86 S. Ct. 1602, 1612, 16 L. Ed. 2d 694 (1966) (Emphasis supplied)].

After applying the Miranda doctrine and considering the nature of misdemeanor traffic offenses, the Berkemer Court concluded that "a person subjected to custodial interrogation is entitled to the benefit of the procedural safeguards enunciated in Miranda, regardless of the nature or severity of the offense of which he is suspected or for which he was arrested." 468 U.S. at , 104 S. Ct. at 3148, 82 L. Ed. 2d at 331. (Footnote omitted and emphasis supplied). In so holding, the Court clearly found that the Miranda doctrine is applicable in situations where an individual is suspected of a misdemeanor traffic offense. However, the Court specifically limited the scope of its holding to misdemeanor traffic offenses where a suspect is subjected to custodial interrogation. There is no indication whatsoever in the Berkemer decision which supports defendant's contention that he was entitled to Miranda warnings before being subjected to field sobriety testing.

Moreover, the third portion of the Berkemer decision further limits the scope of the holding, as it relates to the roadside questioning of a motorist detained pursuant to a routine traffic stop. The Berkemer Court found that such questioning should not be considered to be "custodial interrogation" for Miranda purposes. 468 U.S. at , 104 S. Ct. at 3148, 82 L. Ed. 2d at 331. Although acknowledging that "a traffic stop significantly curtails the 'freedom of action' of the driver," 468 U.S. at , 104 S. Ct. at 3149, 82 L. Ed. 2d at 332, the Court ...


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