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State v. Moriarty

SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY APPELLATE DIVISION


December 13, 2007

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
DAVID M. MORIARTY, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County, 76-2006.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted December 4, 2007

Before Judges Coburn and Grall.

On June 29, 2006, a Monroe Police Department officer arrested defendant, David Moriarty, and issued him summonses for failure to keep right, N.J.S.A. 39:4-82, and for driving while intoxicated, N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.

Defendant challenged his arrest in Municipal Court on the ground that the officer lacked an articulable and reasonable suspicion that defendant had committed a motor vehicle offense. He lost his motion in Municipal Court and then pled guilty to driving while intoxicated.

After sentence was imposed, defendant appealed to the Law Division, again challenging the police officer's right to stop his vehicle. The Law Division judge ruled that the stop was reasonable because the police officer, based on his own observations, had a reasonable basis to conclude that defendant had driven without keeping to the right in violation of the Motor Vehicle Code.

On this appeal to us, defendant again contends that the motor vehicle stop violated his Fourth Amendment rights. After carefully considering the record and briefs, we are satisfied that defendant's argument is without sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(2). Nonetheless, we add the following comments.

The facts are uncomplicated. A citizen called the Monroe Police Department indicating that a particular motor vehicle, a White Mercury Topaz with New Jersey Plate UBW 30R was being operated by an intoxicated driver at a particular location. There was no indication as to how the motor vehicle was being operated or why the caller believed the driver was intoxicated Officer Olynyk was dispatched to the location and began following the car. While he was only about a car length away, he saw the vehicle drive onto the left side of the roadway. Shortly thereafter he pulled the car over. He testified that he had two reasons for pulling the car over: the information received from headquarters and defendant's failure to keep to the right. However, he acknowledged that he intended to make the stop based on the information received.

The officer's subjective motivation was irrelevant. State v. O'Neal, 190 N.J. 601, 614 (2007) (citation omitted). The reasonableness of the officer's conduct must be based on "an objective assessment of an officer's actions in light of the facts and circumstances known to him." State v. Bruzzese, 94 N.J. 210, 220 (1983), cert. denied, 465 U.S. 1030, 104 S.Ct. 1295, 79 L.Ed. 2d 695 (1984)(citation omitted). Here, the officer saw defendant fail to keep to the right, which was a moving violating. This failure to keep to the right provided adequate justification for the stop without regard to the information received from the anonymous informer. See, e.g., State v. Alston, 279 N.J. Super. 39 (App. Div. 1955).

Therefore, the order and judgment under appeal must be affirmed.

Affirmed.

20071213

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