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State v. Wright

July 23, 2007

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
WILLIAM WRIGHT, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Ocean County, AP-21-06.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted July 3, 2007

Before Judges Parker and Seltzer.

Defendant appeals from his conviction, after trial de novo in the Law Division, of driving while intoxicated, N.J.S.A. 39:4-50. He does not appeal from the mandatory sentence imposed. We affirm.

The evidence produced before both the Municipal Court and the Law Division was the product of a hearing on defendant's motion to suppress evidence. After the motion to suppress was denied, defendant affirmatively agreed that there was no "point in bringing the witness back to repeat his testimony." He, therefore, indicated that he had no "problem incorporating all of that [into the trial]." The same representation was made to the Law Division judge.

At the suppression hearing, the State produced evidence that at approximately 7:12 p.m. on December 25, 2005, Franz Isaryk witnessed a blue Dodge utility truck run into a parked vehicle and drive away. Isaryk followed in his vehicle for about two-and-one-half miles until the truck stopped at 47 West Susquehanna Drive where the driver left the vehicle and entered the home. Isaryk had called 911 during the pursuit and was met by the police within several minutes.

Officer Michael Hart testified that he arrived at the scene, spoke with Isaryk, and saw that the Dodge truck exhibited damage consistent with an accident. Hart then knocked at the door of the home into which Isaryk reported the driver had gone. The door was opened by defendant and Hart testified:

My intention was I needed to conduct an investigation on the accident that just occurred. I either needed him to step outside to talk to me or talk to me in the doorway there. When he opened the door and I asked that, he turned his back, walked away. As he was walking away, he said, "Come on in."

Once inside, Hart noted signs of intoxication and asked defendant if there was anyone else home which defendant denied.

At the suppression hearing, defendant denied inviting the officer into his home. The municipal court judge, however, found Hart to be more credible, as did the Law Division judge who accorded appropriate deference to the credibility findings of the municipal court judge. See State v. Locurto, 157 N.J. 463, 472-74 (1999). On that evidence, the Law Division judge denied the motion to suppress, finding "that the officers were outside the house under a reasonable right of investigation and caretaking." He found "that they had the right to go to the house and make the approach to the defendant."

The judge considered the evidence adduced at the suppression hearing and concluded that the State had proven beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant had operated the vehicle while intoxicated. On appeal, defendant asserts

POINT ONE

THE EVIDENCE OF THE DEFENDANT-APPELLANT'S INTOXICATION WAS OBTAINED IN VIOLATION OF HIS CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS ...


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