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State v. Aranceta

SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY APPELLATE DIVISION


June 4, 2007

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
MIGUEL ARANCETA, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Passaic County, M.A. # 4614.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted April 18, 2007

Before Judges A. A. Rodríguez and Lyons.

Defendant, Miguel Aranceta, was convicted in the Paterson Municipal Court and again, after a trial de novo in the Law Division, of driving while intoxicated, N.J.S.A. 39:4-50. The Law Division imposed payment of: $500 fine; $43 costs; $50 V.C.C.B.; $75 S.N.E.F.; $100 D.W.I. surcharge; and $100 D.W.I. fee. In addition, the judge suspended defendant's driving privileges for two years and ordered thirty-days of community service and forty-eight hours at an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center. The Law Division stayed the sentence pending appeal. We affirm.

These are the salient proofs. Paterson Police Officer Victor Ungarian testified that he met with two parties who had been involved in a two-car automobile accident. He approached defendant, who was in the driver's seat of one of the vehicles, and requested defendant's driving credentials. According to Ungarian, defendant's speech was slurred. When attempting to retrieve his credentials, defendant spilled the contents of his wallet on the front seat. Defendant had a glazed look, flushed face and an odor of alcoholic beverage emanating from his person. When defendant did not exit the vehicle as directed, Ungarian opened the door. Defendant stood up. Ungarian escorted defendant to his patrol car, maintaining contact with defendant because he thought that "maybe he could stumble and fall." Based on these observations, Ungarian concluded that defendant was under the influence.

No field sobriety tests were ever administered. However, when asked to put his hands behind his back, defendant complied. When told to turn around, he also complied. Ungarian testified that when he was escorting defendant to his patrol car, "at one time [he] noticed him leaning too far forward, like he was going to take a header down, so [he] held him up." Defendant had no difficulty getting into the officer's car, although his hands were cuffed behind his back.

Paterson Police Officer Melendez testified that he was called in to operate the breathalyzer machine at police headquarters. Defendant denied being intoxicated, but admitted that "he had, maybe, one beer or something." Defendant did not, however, submit to the breathalyzer test.

Defendant testified primarily about the circumstances relating to the failure to have a breathalyzer test.*fn1 According to defendant, his hand was hurt in the accident and he needed to go to the hospital. He told Officer Melendez, "that I was in so much pain with my hand."

On appeal, defendant contends that:

DEFENDANT SHOULD HAVE BEEN ACQUITTED BECAUSE THE EVIDENCE PRESENTE DID NOT PROVE BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT THAT DEFENDANT WAS OPERATING A MOTOR VEHICLE WHILE UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF INTOXICATING LIGUOR IN VIOLATION OF N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.

We have carefully considered defendant's argument and conclude that it is without sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(2). The observations by investigating police officer Ungarian were sufficient to establish the elements of the offense. The Law Division credited this testimony. Thus, the findings by the de novo court are supported by the proofs. State v. Johnson, 42 N.J. 146, 162 (1964). We have no warrant to interfere. State v. Locurto, 157 N.J. 463, 470-71 (1999).

Affirmed. Defendant must surrender to the Paterson Municipal Court no later than June 12, 2007 to effectuate the terms of his sentence.


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