April 28, 2008
STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
SAMIR MAKSOUD, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.
On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Hudson County, Docket No. 23-07.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued April 15, 2008
Before Judges Fuentes and Chambers.
Defendant Samir Maksoud appeals from the judgment of the Law Division finding him guilty of making an improper turn, in violation of N.J.S.A. 39:4-124. The court ordered defendant to pay a sixty-one dollar fine, and twenty-four dollars in court costs. The matter was first heard in the Weehawken Municipal Court. It came before the Law Division by way of defendant's petition for a trial de novo. R. 3:23-8.
Defendant is a New Jersey Transit bus driver. On the day in question, he was operating a forty-foot long bus, carrying forty-six passengers. His assigned route included the Lincoln Tunnel area, where this incident took place. There were three lanes of traffic leading into the Tunnel. Each lane was clearly marked. The far right lane was designated for right turns only; the center lane permitted both right turns and straight through traffic; and the left lane was designated for straight through traffic only.
Port Authority Police Officer Brandon Mohr testified that he observed defendant make a right hand turn from the far left lane. Defendant does not dispute that he made the turn as described by Mohr. He argues, however, that while preparing to turn right from the center lane, he was forced into the left lane by a BMW that encroached into the center lane. Thus, in order to avoid colliding with the BMW, he opted to turn right from the left lane of traffic.
Judge DePascale, reviewing the record developed before the municipal court de novo, rejected defendant's justification argument. In so doing, he made the following findings: It's difficult for me to accept that a bus was forced out of its lane by a small BMW.
Even if the BMW had entered the lane at that speed, all the defendant required -- all he was required to do was simply stop the bus and wait for the BMW to make the turn and then proceed, legally, to make his right hand turn from the appropriate lane. He didn't do that. He chose to enter the left land and made an illegal turn.
The State has proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt and the defendant is guilty of making an improper turn.
It is well-settled that our review on appeal is limited to determining whether the trial court's findings are supported by sufficient credible evidence in the record. State v. Chun, 194 N.J. 54, ___ (2008) (citing State v. Locurto, 157 N.J. 463, 472 (1999); State v. Johnson, 42 N.J. 146, 158-59 (1964)). We are satisfied that Judge DePascale's findings are well-supported by competent evidence. His ultimate legal conclusion based on those findings is thus unassailable.
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