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State v. Mustaro

July 18, 2007

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
JOSEPH MUSTARO, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Gloucester County, Docket No. A-03-06.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted April 25, 2007

Before Judges Fuentes and Baxter.

Defendant Joseph Mustaro pled guilty, in the Paulsboro Municipal Court, of refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test, N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.2, and leaving the scene of an accident, N.J.S.A. 39:4-129. This was defendant's third conviction for refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test. The court thus imposed $1,139 in fines, and suspended his driving privileges for ten years, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.4a. On the conviction for leaving the scene of an accident, defendant was sentenced to thirty days imprisonment and an appropriate fine.

Defendant agreed to plead guilty in municipal court while preserving his right to appeal the court's denial of a motion to suppress. In a de novo review, the Law Division again denied defendant's motion to suppress. Defendant now appeals raising the following arguments.

ONCE PATROLMAN GRAY PHYSICALLY IDENTIFIED APPELLANT-DEFENDANT AS THE DRIVER INVOLVED IN THIS ACCIDENT AND THEN ORDERED THE DEFENDANT TO ACCOMPANY HIM TO THE SCENE OF THE ACCIDENT, PATROLMAN GRAY WITH PROBABLE CAUSE TO ARREST FOR ONLY A TRAFFIC OFFENSE SEIZED THE DEFENDANT IN CONTRAVENTION OF STATE V. BOLTE INFRA, SO THAT ALL EVIDENCE OBTAINED BY THE STATE AFTER THE SEIZURE OF THE DEFENDANT AT HIS HOME MUST BE SUPPRESSED.

We reject this argument and affirm substantially for the reasons expressed by Judge Marshall. We gather the following facts from the record developed before the trial court.

Paulsboro Police Sergeant Michael Minniti testified that at approximately 12:55 a.m. on September 15, 2005, he was dispatched to respond to a motor vehicle accident at the intersection of Billingsport Road and Delaware Street. When he arrived, fellow officer John Hass was already at the scene.

Minniti gave the following description of what he encountered upon arriving:

I saw a tractor trailer, with its hazard[] [lights] on, stopped on Billingsport Road, at the stop sign, at the intersections of Billingsport Road and North Delaware Street. I then observed a pickup truck, which was slammed in the back of it, directly behind the tractor trailer. I then checked on the occupants to see if there was anybody hurt or injured. I did come into contact with the tractor trailer driver.

I noticed that the pickup truck did not have an occupant in it. The tractor trailer driver informed me that someone ran in the back of him. . . [He o]bserved a stocky, white male, wearing a green shirt and shorts, get out of the vehicle. He asked the occupant of that vehicle if he was okay.

He said he was fine. He started walking away from the scene. The tractor trailer driver then asked him[:] where are you going[?] ...


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