On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Criminal Part, Camden County, A03-2006.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kestin, P.J.A.D.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted: November 14, 2006
Before Judges Kestin, Payne and Lihotz.
The State appeals from a Law Division order granting defendant's motion to dismiss the complaint charging her, under N.J.S.A. 39:4-96, with reckless driving. In the Winslow Township Municipal Court, defendant, Tammy Buczkowski, had entered a conditional guilty plea to an amended charge of failure to yield under N.J.S.A. 39:4-144. She then appealed to the Law Division. On de-novo-on-the-record review pursuant to Rule 3:23-8(a), the court granted defendant's motion and dismissed the complaint. Judge Cook expressed his rationale for the result reached in a written opinion and order. The State argues, on appeal, that "[t]he trial court erred by holding that a motor vehicle summons that was issued within 30 days must also be served upon the defendant within 30 days."
The facts as found by Judge Cook are simple and essentially uncontested.
At 11:30 p.m. on the night of October 30, 2004, a collision occurred at the intersection of Tansboro - East Factory Roads in Winslow Township. Ms. Buczkowski was driving on the stop street. A police officer was driving on the through street, responding to a call. Ms. Buczkowski entered the intersection, and the two vehicles collided. One of the occupants of the two vehicles sustained fatal injuries.
On November 29, 2004, the 30th day following the accident, Lt. Mark Wilson, a member of the Camden County Prosecutor's Crash Response Incident Team, signed a sworn complaint against Tammy Buczkowski, charging her with reckless driving at the Tansboro -East Factory Roads intersection in Winslow Township, on or about October 30, 2004 at 11:30 p.m. The offense section of the complaint read, "Reckless Driving (Fatal Crash) in violation of 39:4-96".
Referring to "Exhibit A . . . , a copy of the complaint-summons, and the Winslow Township Municipal Court envelope that was used to mail it to Ms. Buczkowski[,]" Judge Cook found further that
The postmark date on the envelope was March 21, 2005. Thus, 142 days elapsed from the date of the alleged offense to the date the complaint-summons was served by mail upon Ms. Buczkowski.
Exhibit B is another copy of the complaint-summons. The "Notice to Appear" section lists the "Court Date" as 1/5/05 at 8:30 a.m., with the notation that a "Court Appearance [was] Required." However, the court appearance date listed in Exhibit A, the version of the complaint-summons mailed to Ms. Buczkowski on March 21, 2005, lists the court appearance date as "4/15/05". It appears that the "1-5-05" date listed in the Exhibit A version was written over to change the court appearance date to "4/15/05". Presumably that date change was made because the Winslow Township Municipal Court did not mail or otherwise effect service of the complaint-summons until March 21, 2005 at the earliest, or some 21/2 months after the original court appearance date of January 5, 2005.
Prior to the complaint-summons being mailed to Ms. Buczkowski on March 21, 2005, a notice dated "12/01/04" and titled "TRANSFER TO THE COUNTY PROSECUTOR" was mailed by the Winslow Township Municipal Court to Ms. Buczkowski at her Bayonne, N.J. address. Exhibit C. The notice listed the case name "State v. Tammy Buczkowski"; the summons no. "SC 14540"; the violation date "10/30/04"; and the violation [as], "39:4-96" . . . .
The latter notice, of December 1, 2004, contained no details regarding the charge beyond the foregoing, and it did not include a copy of the complaint-summons which, among other details, contained the location of the incident that gave rise to the charge, the identity of the charging officer, and the court ...