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State v. Mazurek

Decided: December 8, 1989.


J.h. Coleman, Brody and Skillman. The opinion of the court was delivered by Coleman, J.h., P.J.A.D.


The pivotal issue raised in this appeal is whether the empirical data accumulated from a particular sobriety checkpoint justifies the site selection for reasons related to public safety and to reasonably efficacious or productive law enforcement goals. We hold that the data does justify the site selection and that customary methods of detecting drunken drivers would not have been more efficacious.

On June 8, 1988, defendant was arrested at a sobriety checkpoint in Matawan, New Jersey, for driving while intoxicated (DWI), contrary to N.J.S.A. 39:4-50(a). After the denial of a motion to suppress evidence based on the alleged illegality of the roadblock, defendant pleaded guilty to the charge and reserved the right to raise the issue on appeal. See R. 3:5-7(d). He was fined $250 and his driver's license was suspended for six months. On this appeal, he contends that the "Matawan sobriety checkpoint was not carefully targeted to a designated area based on data justifying the site selection for reasons of public safety and reasonably efficacious or productive law enforcement goals."

Although the issue has not been raised, we must first decide whether this appeal is properly before us. The notice of appeal states this is an appeal from a final judgment and order of the

Law Division entered on January 26, 1989 denying the suppression motion. But that order was interlocutory since the drunken driving charge was still outstanding until defendant entered his guilty plea in the municipal court on February 2, 1989. In his brief, defendant states this appeal is authorized by R. 3:5-7(a).

That rule only preserved for appeal the denial of the suppression motion following the guilty plea. R. 2:2-3(b) permits an interlocutory appeal to this court when leave is granted from a final judgment of a municipal court in the interest of justice. R. 2:5-6(a), however, requires an application for leave to appeal from such a final judgment to be made within 15 days after entry of judgment. A 15-day extension is permitted by R. 2:4-4(b)(1). Because defendant only challenges the denial of his suppression motion by the Law Division, in the interest of justice and judicial economy, we have elected to treat the notice of appeal as a motion for leave to appeal from the final judgment entered in the Matawan Municipal Court. Since the notice of appeal was filed 20 days after the entry of judgment, we hereby extend the time for filing nunc pro tunc to February 22, 1989. Similarly, we sua sponte grant leave to appeal nunc pro tunc. We note that the problem may have been ameliorated in part with the recent amendment to R. 7:4-2(f) which permits a drunken driving suppression motion to be heard in the municipal court. Once the motion and the charge are disposed of in the municipal court, any appeal then goes to the Law Division. See R. 3:23; R. 3:24; R. 7:4-2(f). Under the present rules, there is no appeal of right to the Appellate Division from actions triable in municipal courts.

The facts germane to our decision are not disputed. In January 1985, the Monmouth County DWI Strike Force (Strike Force) notified the Matawan Police Department that a Strike Force sobriety checkpoint would be established in the Borough of Matawan on January 19, 1985. Anthony L. Paduano, Chief of the Neptune Police Department, was the coordinator of the

Strike Force. Matawan Police Captain Irving Nusbaum, in consultation with his superiors, designated the intersection of Broad Street and Highway 34 as the Matawan checkpoint site. Captain Nusbaum understood that the purpose of the site was to apprehend drunken drivers. The first sobriety roadblock was established on January 19, 1985 at Broad Street and Highway 34. Nine sobriety roadblocks were operated at this site between January 19, 1985 and June 18, 1988 for approximately four hours each time. Not every vehicle was stopped, but they were stopped in accordance with a predetermined pattern at a given time. Defendant was stopped at this roadblock on June 18, 1988 at approximately 1:00 a.m. Based on the consequent discovery of his intoxicated condition, he was arrested for driving while intoxicated. A breathalyzer test was administered which revealed a blood alcohol level of .12%.

The Law Division judge denied the motion to suppress. He found that the roadblock site was justifiably based on "reasons of public safety and reasonably efficacious or productive of law enforcement goals." The judge viewed law enforcement goals not only to include apprehending drunk drivers, "but also to [ensure] that the public is aware that these roadblocks are going to be out there and hopefully . . . act as a deterrent."

On this appeal, defendant argues that the sobriety checkpoint selected is unconstitutional because it was not justified by empirical data showing that the public's safety warrants the checkpoint. The State counters by urging that the data supported the need to heighten public awareness and increase public safety.

Stopping an automobile and detaining its occupants constitute a seizure within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article I, Paragraph 7 of the New Jersey Constitution. Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U.S. 648, 653, 99 S. Ct. 1391, 1395, 59 L. Ed. 2d 660, 667 (1979); State v. Barcia, 235 N.J. Super. 311, 316 ...

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