Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

State v. Wallace

June 22, 1999

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
WAYNE WALLACE, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Coleman, J.

Argued May 4, 1999

On certification to the Superior Court, Appellate Division, whose opinion is reported at 313 N.J. Super. 435 (1998).

Under the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice (Code), a person commits the crime of second-degree eluding, if while operating a motor vehicle on any street or highway in this State, the operator "knowingly flees or attempts to elude any police or law enforcement officer after having received any signal from such officer to bring the vehicle . . . to a full stop . . . [and] the flight or attempt to elude creates a risk of death or injury to any person." N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2b. This appeal requires us to resolve a conflict between panels in the Appellate Division over whether the term "injury" in N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2b should be defined when instructing a jury in a second-degree eluding case. We hold that the term must be defined.

I.

On October 15, 1994, at approximately 10:45 p.m., Paterson police officers Brian DeProspo and Orlando Robinson were in uniform and on routine patrol in a marked police vehicle. Based on information received from Police Officer Diaz, the police radio dispatcher, Officers DeProposo and Robinson proceeded to the vicinity of East 23rd Street in Paterson. For reasons not disclosed in the trial record, the radio dispatcher directed the officers' attention to a blue Honda driven by an African-American male, later identified as defendant, Wayne Wallace. While the officers were proceeding northerly on East 23rd Street, they observed a blue Honda traveling in the opposite direction. The officers turned their patrol car around and activated their lights and siren in an unsuccessful attempt to stop defendant's Honda. Instead of stopping, defendant attempted to evade the officers by circling the block twice while driving erratically.

The officers continued to pursue defendant for approximately one mile, covering about thirteen or fourteen city blocks. During that pursuit, defendant drove through six stop signs without stopping and also drove on the wrong side of the roadway. At another point, he drove the wrong way down a one-way street. Defendant threw a handgun out of the window that was later retrieved by the officers and found to be loaded with hollow-nosed bullets. During the pursuit, neither defendant nor the police officers traveled at speeds in excess of thirty miles per hour. Defendant stopped his vehicle only after his path was blocked by three other police vehicles. At that point, defendant jumped out of the Honda and attempted to run, but he was apprehended immediately.

Defendant was charged with second-degree eluding a police officer, unlawful possession of a handgun, possession of hollow-nosed bullets, and a disorderly persons offense of resisting arrest. He was also charged with violations of several motor vehicle statutes, including careless driving, failing to stop for stop signs, and traveling the wrong way down a one-way street.

Defendant was tried before a jury on all of the charges, including the motor vehicle charges and the disorderly persons offense. The jury found defendant guilty of second-degree eluding a police officer, third-degree unlawful possession of a weapon, fourth-degree possession of a prohibited weapon, resisting arrest, and all of the motor vehicle charges. Defendant was sentenced to eight years of imprisonment on the eluding charge, a concurrent sentence of four years on the possession of a weapon charge, a concurrent sentence of eighteen months on the possession of a prohibited weapon charge, and a concurrent sentence of six months on the resisting arrest charge.

In a published opinion, the Appellate Division merged defendant's resisting arrest and careless driving convictions with the second-degree eluding conviction and otherwise affirmed. State v. Wallace, 313 N.J. Super. 435, 438-43 (1998). The court rejected defendant's contention that because the "risk of death or injury to any person" is an essential element of second-degree eluding, it was reversible error for the trial court to fail to instruct the jury on the meaning of the word "injury." Id. at 440. The court concluded that the phrase "injury to any person" need not be defined for a jury because the phrase is clear and includes injury risks of all types. Ibid. We granted defendant's petition for certification. State v. Wallace, 157 N.J. 544 (1998).

II.

Defendant argues that the Appellate Division's decision is inconsistent with the Legislature's intent to limit the term "injury" to "bodily injury" rather than injury risks of all types. Defendant also argues that State v. Dorko, 298 N.J. Super. 54, 58 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 150 N.J. 28 (1997), correctly held that the term "injury" must be defined for a jury as an element of the offense of second-degree eluding.

The Passaic County Prosecutor argues "that despite the holding in Dorko, [defendant's second-degree eluding conviction] should not be reversed . . . . A review of the trial court's jury charge clearly establishes that the instruction was proper." The Passaic County Prosecutor disagrees "with the holding in Dorko in that absence of a definition of 'injury' would lead the jury to speculate as to what extent of an injury would satisfy the statute. A jury of average intelligence would use a definition of injury as used in N.J.S.A. 2C:11-1a."

The Attorney General, as amicus curiae, argues that because the Legislature did not define "risk of death or injury to any person," it intended an all-inclusive ordinary meaning. The Attorney General points to many sections of the Code to illustrate that the Legislature knew how to limit the term ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.