On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County, No. 05-07-1384.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Wefing, Parker and C.S. Fisher.
Following a bench trial, defendant was convicted of one count of escape, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-5a, and sentenced to three years of incarceration. Defendant has appealed. After reviewing the record in light of the contentions advanced on appeal, we affirm.
On March 30, 2005, defendant was committed to the Bergen County Jail for failure to remain current in his court-ordered child support payments. On April 5, 2005, defendant was approved for participation in the Sheriff's Work Release Program. He was given a copy of the rules and regulations governing his participation, which he signed, indicating he understood those terms. Paragraph 1 of the rules and regulations states:
I agree to industriously work at my employment, training or education program. I will go to and from its location by the most direct route in the least amount of time. If any situation occurs that prevents me from returning to my assigned custody location at the prescribed time, I will immediately call the Bergen County Jail, namely the Work Release Staff, for instructions. I will not be absent from the approved activities of the day without the approval of the Work Release Staff.
I agree not to leave the Bergen County Jail without prior authorization from the Work Release Staff. I understand that should I FAIL TO RETURN TO THE BERGEN COUNTY JAIL, I WILL BE CHARGED AS AN ESCAPEE AND CRIMINALLY CHARGED WITH N.J.S. (2C:29-5) ESCAPE.
Defendant's initials immediately followed this provision.
Under this Work Release Program, defendant was permitted to leave the jail at 6:30 a.m. to go to his place of employment, East Coast Windows in Keansburg. He was required to return by 8:00 p.m.
Sheriff's Officer Daniel Marro was the administrator of the Work Release Program, and on May 1 defendant advised Officer Marro that his employer was not giving him his paychecks, and he asked Officer Marro to call the employer on his behalf. Marro was unable to reach him. Defendant then left, ostensibly to his job at East Coast Windows, but he did not return that evening. He was apprehended two days later at the Royal Motel in Elmwood Park. Defendant was returned to custody and indicted for escape.
Defendant testified on his own behalf. He said that on May 1 he had gone to a roofing job in Oradell, not East Coast Windows. He said that when he finished work in Oradell, he tried to call his employer at East Coast about the paychecks that were due him, but he was unable to reach the employer. He testified that he then decided to drive to his employer's house to confront him about the money that he was owed but said he got lost on the way and then ran out of gas. He said that he borrowed five dollars from someone and put one dollar's worth of gas in the car. He made no attempt to contact the Work Release Staff in accordance with paragraph 1 of the rules and regulations governing the work release program.
He said that after he put the dollar's worth of gas in the car he intended to drive to his father's house, but when he contacted his father he learned that detectives from the warrant squad had been at his father's house looking for him. He knew he was in trouble, and he panicked. He said he started ...