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State v. Rama

March 4, 1997

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
JOHN RAMA, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



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

Approved for Publication March 6, 1997.

Before Judges Dreier, D'Annunzio and Newman. The opinion of the court was delivered by D'annunzio, J.A.D. Dreier, P.j.a.d. (Dissenting)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: D'annunzio

The opinion of the court was delivered by

D'ANNUNZIO, J.A.D.

The issue is whether N.J.S.A. 2C:20-2.1a (section 2.1) mandates the suspension of defendant's driving privileges upon conviction of automobile theft, or whether the statute merely authorizes a court to impose that sanction in its sentencing discretion.

Pursuant to a plea agreement, defendant pleaded guilty to receiving stolen property, a 1994 Lexus automobile, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:20-7. The court sentenced defendant to three years of probation, suspension of his driver's license for one year, a $500 penalty, restitution, and other concomitant financial penalties. The court imposed the $500 penalty and license suspension because it believed that section 2.1 mandates the imposition of those sanctions. The court noted, however, that in the absence of section 2.1's mandate, it would not have imposed the license suspension. The court stayed the license suspension pending appeal. We conclude that the section 2.1 sanctions are mandatory.

Section 2.1 provides:

a. In addition to any other Disposition authorized by law, a person convicted under the provisions of this chapter of theft or unlawful taking of a motor vehicle shall be subject:

(1) For the first offense, to a penalty of $500.00 and to the suspension or postponement of the person's license to operate a motor vehicle over the highways of this State for a period of one year.

(2) For a second offense, to a penalty of $750.00 and to the suspension or postponement of the person's license to operate a motor vehicle over the highways of this State for a period of two years.

(3) For a third or subsequent offense, to a penalty of $1,000.00 and to the suspension or postponement of the person's license to operate a motor vehicle over the highways of this State for 10 years.

Defendant contends that the section 2.1 sanctions are discretionary because the Legislature did not mandate their imposition, but merely made qualifying defendants "subject to" them in the trial court's sentencing discretion.

In construing a statute we must effectuate the Legislature's intent. Monmouth County v. Wissell, 68 N.J. 35, 43-44, 342 A.2d 199 (1975). Sources of legislative intent are the language of a statute, the policy behind a statute, concepts of reasonableness, and legislative history. Coletti v. Union County Bd. of Chosen Freeholders, 217 N.J. Super. 31, 35, 524 A.2d 1270 (App. Div. 1987); Shapiro v. Essex County Bd. of Chosen Freeholders, 177 N.J. Super. 87, 92, 424 ...


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