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State v. Baranoski

SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY APPELLATE DIVISION


February 1, 2008

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
DALE M. BARANOSKI, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County, Municipal Appeal No. 33-2006.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted January 23, 2008

Before Judges S.L. Reisner and Gilroy.

Defendant Dale Baranoski appeals from an August 11, 2006 order of the trial court, finding him guilty of driving the wrong way on a one-way street, N.J.S.A. 39:4-85.1, and driving with an expired license, N.J.S.A. 39:3-10. We affirm.

Defendant was ticketed for driving the wrong way on a oneway street, after he attempted to find a way around a police roadblock on Route 35 North in Old Bridge. The roadblock was necessitated by an accident on that roadway. Officer Phillip Belgio, who stopped defendant for this infraction, also discovered during the stop that defendant's driver's license had expired and he wrote defendant a ticket for that infraction as well. The next day, Officer Belgio saw defendant's truck parked at a 7-11 convenience store, and he alerted a fellow officer that defendant might be driving with an expired license. When Office Trever Haughney approached the truck, he discovered what he believed to be an unclear rear license plate for which he issued defendant a traffic ticket. Because defendant was still driving with an expired license, Officer Haughney issued a second ticket for that offense. There is no dispute on this record that defendant was in fact driving with an expired license when he received both tickets for that violation.

Defendant requested a probable cause hearing based on his accusations of misconduct by the officers. Because defendant had accused Old Bridge police officers of wrongdoing, the municipal court case was heard by Judge Dowgin from the South Brunswick Municipal Court. After a hearing, Judge Dowgin found no probable cause to credit defendant's accusations against the police officers. He convicted defendant of the expired license offenses and driving the wrong way, but acquitted him of having an unclear license plate. Defendant appealed the convictions to the Law Division.

In a lengthy and detailed eight-page written opinion, Judge Ferencz rejected the appeal, and entered an order convicting defendant de novo of the expired license and driving the wrong way offenses. Giving appropriate deference to Judge Dowgin's credibility determinations, Judge Ferencz credited Officer Belgio's testimony that the street on which defendant was driving was designated as "one way" and had signs so indicating. Judge Ferencz also concluded that Officer Haughney had probable cause to ask defendant for his driving credentials after observing what appeared to be an obscured rear plate and after receiving information from a fellow officer that defendant was likely driving with an expired license.

On this appeal, defendant has filed a brief which is deficient in form and lacking citations to the record. Nonetheless, in carefully reviewing the brief, we understand defendant to be raising the following points for our consideration:

1. Judge Dowgin should have recused himself because he "fills in at times with the Old Bridge Municipal Court."

2. Judge Dowgin should not have heard the traffic matter together with defendant's accusations against the two police officers.

3. Judge Dowgin displayed bias and committed legal errors in conducting the probable cause hearing.

4. The charges should have been dismissed due to delay in prosecution.

5. The State failed to prove that defendant drove the wrong way down a one-way street and in any event defendant was entrapped into committing this violation.

6. Officer Haughney did not have probable cause to ask defendant for his driving credentials, and the obscured rear license plate was a pretext.

These are essentially the same arguments which he raised in the Law Division and which Judge Ferencz rejected. Having reviewed the record, we conclude that all of defendant's appellate contentions are without sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(2). Judge Ferencz's decision is supported by sufficient credible evidence and his legal conclusions are correct. See State v. Locurto, 157 N.J. 463, 470-74 (1999). In particular, we agree that Officer Belgio's undisputed testimony was sufficient to establish that defendant drove the wrong way on a one-way street. See State v. Morgan, 393 N.J. Super. 411, 420-22 (App. Div. 2007). We affirm substantially for the reasons stated in Judge Ferencz's cogent written opinion.

Affirmed.

20080201

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