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Sheiban v. New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission

December 24, 2007

DEAN SHEIBAN, APPELLANT,
v.
NEW JERSEY MOTOR VEHICLE COMMISSION, RESPONDENT.



On appeal from the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued: November 13, 2007

Before Judges Collester and C.L. Miniman.

Appellant Dean Sheiban appeals from a final administrative order of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) suspending his New Jersey driving privileges for 3600 days pursuant to the Interstate Driver License Compact (the Compact), N.J.S.A. 39:5D-1 to -14, based upon Sheiban's guilty plea to driving while intoxicated in South Nyack, New York, his third conviction. Because New Jersey has a significant interest in regulating the out-of-state conduct of a New Jersey resident and licensee, we affirm.

The facts are undisputed. Sheiban was born on May 5, 1963, and presumably began driving around 1981. His New Jersey driver history record begins on March 22, 1984. Over the twenty-two years from that date to October 23, 2006, the date of the last entry, Sheiban was involved in nine accidents. He was driving under the influence at the time of one of those accidents. Sheiban was found guilty of failure to give a proper signal once, speeding three times, careless driving twice and unsafe operation of a motor vehicle once. Sheiban was found guilty of driving under the influence in New Jersey in 1990 and his license was suspended. In 1998 he was again found guilty of driving under the influence in New Jersey and his license was suspended again.

On February 18, 2006, Sheiban was charged with driving while intoxicated in South Nyack, New York. At that time he was living in New Jersey and held a New Jersey driver's license. The following month he moved to New York and on March 13, 2006, he surrendered his New Jersey driver's license. On June 21, 2006, Sheiban pled guilty to driving while intoxicated, which New York treated as a first offense. Sheiban completed his New York State Drinking Driver Program on September 26, 2006, and secured a New York driver license on September 27, 2006.*fn1

New York reported Sheiban's conviction to New Jersey as the licensing jurisdiction pursuant to the Compact, N.Y. Veh. & Traffic Law, § 516, on a "Report of Out-of-State Convictions" form. The details of this conviction were posted to Sheiban's driver history record on October 23, 2006, and the MVC issued a Notice of Scheduled Suspension stating its intention to suspend Sheiban's New Jersey driving privileges for 3600 days in accordance with N.J.S.A. 39:5-30, N.J.S.A. 39:5D-4 and N.J.A.C. 13:19-11.1.

Sheiban timely requested a hearing to challenge the suspension, although he did not dispute that he was a New Jersey licensed driver at the time of the offense nor did he dispute his conviction of that offense. Rather, he asserted that he was no longer a New Jersey licensed driver and that the offense occurred outside New Jersey. The request for a hearing asserted that Sheiban was convicted as a New York driver, that New York imposed punishment and suspended his New York driving privileges and that, with his New York privileges restored at the time of the proposed suspension, he had a constitutional right to operate a motor vehicle in all fifty states and any United States territory.

The MVC denied the request for a hearing pursuant to N.J.A.C. 13:19-1.2(d) because no fact disputes were raised and no legal arguments were advanced. The MVC issued its final decision based on the written record and suspended Sheiban's driving privileges for 3600 days starting on January 22, 2007. This appeal followed and a motion for stay pending appeal was denied.

Sheiban raises only one issue on appeal, that "[t]he [MVC] lacked the statutory authority to suspend appellant's New Jersey driving privileges when appellant was neither a resident nor a licensee of New Jersey at the time of his New York conviction because a driver's home state and state of residence are determined by the driver's status at the time of conviction."

In reviewing final agency action, we are restricted to the following four inquires:

(1) whether the agency's decision offends the State or Federal Constitution; (2) whether the agency's action violates express or implied legislative policies; (3) whether the record contains substantial evidence to support the findings on which the agency based its action; and (4) whether in applying the legislative policies to the facts, the agency clearly erred in reaching a conclusion that could not reasonably have been made on a showing of the relevant factors. [George Harms Const. Co. v. N.J. Turnpike Auth., 137 N.J. 8, 27 (1994).]

Sheiban does not claim any constitutional infirmity nor does he assert that the record lacks substantial evidence to support the MVC's factual determinations. Rather, he raises only an issue of law with respect to the proper interpretation and application of N.J.S.A. 39:5D-4. In this respect, "[a]n administrative agency's interpretation of statutes and regulations within its implementing and enforcing responsibility is ordinarily entitled to our deference." In re Appeal by Progressive Cas. Ins. Co., 307 N.J. Super. 93, 102 (App. Div. 1997). Nevertheless, "we are not bound by the agency's legal opinions." Levine v. State of ...


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