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State v. Ford

Decided: April 5, 1990.

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
EARL B. FORD, TROY V. MARTINO, AND WILLIAM DEREVLANY, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS



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

King, Shebell and Baime. The opinion of the court was delivered by Shebell, J.A.D.

Shebell

Defendants Earl B. Ford (Ford), Troy V. Martino (Martino) and William Derevlany (Derevlany) all face separate charges of driving while intoxicated and are scheduled for individual trials in municipal courts in Burlington County.

Ford appeared with counsel in the municipal court and before his trial commenced moved to suppress the results of his breathalyzer test. The basis of his motion was the municipal prosecutor's failure to respond to discovery requests that were allegedly made in accordance with the Law Division's decision in State v. Tull, 234 N.J. Super. 486, 560 A.2d 1331 (Law Div.1989). The municipal court judge denied Ford's motion because he considered "exclusion of the breathalyzer . . . results to be a drastic remedy." The judge decided to postpone the trial in order to allow the municipal prosecutor an additional thirty days to respond to the discovery requests. Defendant then applied to the Law Division for interlocutory review of the judge's decision.

Similarly Derevlany moved before the municipal court to have all his discovery requests complied with or to suppress the results of his breathalyzer test on the grounds that the municipal prosecutor failed to respond to legitimate discovery requests. The municipal judge denied the motion on the basis that the discovery requests were a "fishing expedition." Derevlany filed a motion for interlocutory appeal with the Law Division.

Likewise, Martino made an identical motion to those of Ford and Derevlany in the municipal court to suppress the results of his breathalyzer test. His motion was also denied, and he filed for interlocutory review before the Law Division.

Review was granted by the Law Division of all three interlocutory matters. In a written opinion dated September 27, 1989, the Law Division judge required that the State pay defendants' costs and attorney fees associated with their appearance in municipal court and in connection with the appeal taken to the Law Division. The cases were remanded to the respective municipal courts for payment of costs and fees and for the State to respond to the defendants' discovery demands. Failure to comply was to result in dismissal of the complaint. We granted leave to appeal and consolidated the three matters for purposes of appeal.

Each defendant requested approximately 100 different items or answers as part of 8-page letter requests for discovery. In response to these discovery requests defendants received what was described by defendant Derevlany's attorney as "the standard discovery packet from the New Jersey State Police." This packet consisted of 11 separate items for each defendant, including the drunk-driving reports, narratives of the investigations and certificates of analysis.

At the time of their trials in the municipal court, defendants argued that based on State v. Tull, 234 N.J. Super. 486, 560 A.2d 1331, the prosecutors' response to their discovery requests were deficient. In each case the prosecutors replied that defendants' requests were overbroad and overburdensome.

The State concedes that defendants are entitled under R. 3:13-3 to discovery of all relevant materials in driving while intoxicated (DWI) cases, but urges that defendants' discovery requests were excessive and overburdensome. See State v. Laurick, 231 N.J. Super. 464, 555 A.2d 1133 (App.Div.), certif. granted, 117 N.J. 52, 563 A.2d 819 (1989) (proscribed discovery that was as exhaustive as that permitted by Tull). It argues

that the information sought is not relevant and at best may only lead to relevant information. The State maintains that by applying the rules pertinent to discovery in criminal cases "respondents' demand for discovery, . . . immediately, and inescapably leads to the conclusion that such a demand comprehends ...


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