On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Indictment Nos. 05-04-0810 and 06-04-1090.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges C.S. Fisher and Kestin.
Defendant went on trial on charges that he had received stolen property, N.J.S.A. 2C:20-7, and eluded police, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2(b). The jury heard evidence from which it could find that, on October 30, 2004, officers in an unmarked police vehicle observed a 2004 gold Dodge Intrepid, which had been stolen a few nights earlier, double parked on South Burnet Street in East Orange, a high drug trafficking area. As the officers' vehicle turned onto South Burnet Street, the Intrepid immediately drove away. The officers considered this odd and followed the Intrepid as it made a right turn onto Main Street. One of the officers gave the following testimony as to what thereafter occurred:
And as soon as you turn onto Main Street, go west on Main, you approach North Clinton Street, and there was a red light at North Clinton. The [Intrepid] drove right through the red light. I activated my lights and sirens. I notified dispatch of what occurred.
We followed the vehicle to get a plate at North Clinton to Harrison Street. It's about a good half a mile. So, we followed the vehicle, lights and sirens, the [Intrepid] never stopped. We made a left onto Harrison Street. . . . [A]s we turned left, we were still following the [Intrepid], lights and sirens, the [Intrepid] made a sharp turn into a ShopRite parking lot.
[The Intrepid] abruptly turned into [the] ShopRite parking lot. On the wet surface, he must have lost control of the car or something. He hit [an] island, cement island with the ShopRite sign, Dunkin' Donuts, Blockbuster. He hit that sign, the island.
The [Intrepid] was [rendered] undriveable. The driver [defendant] exited that vehicle and began to run. I stopped my car, exited the car, began to run, began to chase . . . this guy on foot . . . . Maybe 50 feet from where the [Intrepid] crashed into the cement island, [defendant] was apprehended.
After defendant was apprehended, the police found a screwdriver in the Intrepid and observed that the ignition was damaged in a way that allowed the vehicle to be started without an ignition key.
Following his conviction, and after the trial court denied the State's motion to impose an extended term, defendant was sentenced to a ten-year prison term, with a five-year period of parole ineligibility on the second-degree eluding conviction, as well as a concurrent five-year term on the third-degree stolen property offense. At sentencing, defendant also pled guilty to the third-degree offense of receiving stolen property, which had been charged in a separate indictment, and was sentenced on that conviction to a five-year prison term with a thirty-month period of parole ineligibility. The latter sentence was ordered to run concurrently to the sentences imposed in the matter that was tried.
Defendant appealed, raising the following issues for our consideration:
I. THE STATE DID NOT PROVE BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT THAT DETECTIVE JOHNSON DIRECTED THE DODGE INTREPID TO STOP.
II. THE TRIAL COURT IMPROPERLY PERMITTED THE JURY TO CONSIDER WHETHER IT MAY INFER [FROM] EVIDENCE OF A MOTOR VEHICLE OFFENSE THAT THE DEFENDANT CREATED A RISK OF ...