O'Hagan, Robert W., J.s.c.
O'HAGAN, ROBERT W., J.S.C.
Defendant Eva Alfano pled guilty to a charge of obtaining CDS by fraud in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:35-13. The court imposed sentence placing the defendant on probation and ordering the payment of fines and penalties. Mrs. Alfano's driving privileges were suspended pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:35-16 for the minimum mandatory period of six months. A controversy has arisen concerning the date the suspension will commence.
Defendant, who is 35 years old, married and the mother of five children, wished to postpone the period of suspension in order that she might pursue out-patient rehabilitation treatment for her drug problem. She relates that her husband is employed outside the home with only one day off each week. The defendant has enrolled in, and is now actively pursuing, drug rehabilitation treatment six days per week at several locations and facilities including a local hospital, a methadone clinic, as well as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings four days per week at two separate locations. Because the facilities are located some distance from her home and there is no direct public transportation available, Mrs. Alfano must drive to each treatment center. She contends that there are no friends or relatives available to drive her for treatment while her husband cannot do so because of the demands of his employment. The defendant, therefore, argues that a suspension of her driving privileges on the day of sentence would mean she could no longer attend drug rehabilitation treatment
facilities as she has been doing for quite some time now. There was no evidence developed regarding the availability of alternative treatment centers situated in close proximity to the Alfano household.
It should be noted that the defendant asserts that her dependence on prescriptive drugs arose from the alleged malpractice of her treating physician. In this regard, she maintains she did not initiate her use of illicit drugs on a voluntary basis but rather was following the prescriptions of a treating medical doctor licensed by the State of New Jersey. For the purposes of this ruling, the court will accept such contentions.
Further, the court has no reason to doubt the genuineness of defendant's efforts to seek treatment for her admitted drug problem. Indeed, even the prosecuting attorney, on the date for argument, conceded that Mrs. Alfano appears to be genuinely motivated to seek a cure for her drug problem.
The court is now faced with the prosecutor's motion to modify the sentence notwithstanding the fact that all involved with the process have concluded that a postponement of the period of suspension in this particular case, considering defendant's circumstances, would be both fair and just. Moreover, no one disputes that an appropriate aim of the State of New Jersey is to educate drug users, even those charged with criminal offenses, in hopes that future drug use will be minimized. On the other hand, it is also a legitimate State purpose to minimize the possibility of one driving while under the influence of a controlled dangerous substance. In addition, the suspension of a defendant's driving privileges in the context of these charges has its appropriate punitive aspects.
Thus, the court must determine whether the postponement of defendant's period of suspension of her driving privileges, which might be fair and just in this case, is allowable pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:35-16.
As earlier noted the State now moves to correct what it perceives to be an illegal sentence which postponed the period
of suspension of defendant's driving privileges. It is well established that a trial court may at any time correct an illegal sentence. State v. Paladino, 203 N.J. Super. 537, 549, 497 A.2d 562 (App.Div.1985). Thus, there are no time ...