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State v. Trainor

July 14, 2008


On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County, Docket No. 009-21-06.

Per curiam.


Argued March 4, 2008

Before Judges Coburn, Fuentes and Chambers.

Defendant Kevin Trainor appeals from his third conviction for driving while intoxicated (DWI), N.J.S.A. 39:4-50. This case has an unusual procedural history.

On August 9, 2004, defendant appeared with counsel before the Hackensack Municipal Court and pled guilty to DWI. At the sentencing hearing, the municipal prosecutor informed the court that defendant had two prior DWI convictions, the first on May 10, 1991, and the second on December 20, 2002. Thus, because more than ten years had lapsed between the first and second convictions, defendant should be sentenced as a second offender. The municipal court judge agreed, and defendant was sentenced accordingly.

Thereafter, defendant appeared before the Rochelle Park Municipal Court on a charge of driving while suspended. Upon reviewing defendant's driving abstract, the Rochelle Park municipal judge realized that under State v. Burrows, 349 N.J. Super. 225 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 174 N.J. 43 (2002), defendant should have been sentenced in Hackensack as a third DWI offender. In a letter dated September 26, 2005, the Rochelle Park municipal judge informed his Hackensack colleague of his discovery, and suggested that defendant be brought back for re-sentencing.

On November 16, 2005, defendant appeared before the Hackensack Municipal Court. After overruling defense counsel's objection, the judge applied our holding in Burrows and re-sentenced defendant as a third DWI offender. Specifically, the court sentenced defendant to serve 180 days in the Bergen County Jail, suspended his driver's license for a period of ten years, and imposed the mandatory fines and penalties.

On appeal, the Law Division vacated defendant's original 2004 guilty plea, and remanded the matter to the Hackensack municipal court for trial. After vacating defendant's guilty plea and reinstating the original charges of DWI, reckless driving and crossing over yellow lines, the case was tried before the Hackensack Municipal Court. The court found defendant guilty of DWI and crossing the yellow lines, and not guilty of reckless driving.

The court sentenced defendant, as a third DWI offender, to serve a 180 day term of incarceration, suspended his driving privileges for ten years, suspended his registration for two years, and ordered him to pay the mandatory fines and penalties. For crossing the yellow lines, the court ordered defendant to pay a $100 fine, and assessed two points.

Acting on defendant's petition, the Law Division considered the matter de novo, and found defendant guilty on both charges. The sentence imposed for the third DWI conviction was the same in all respects but one. The Court increased the registration suspension from two to ten years and merged the sentence for crossing the yellow lines.

We summarize the following facts from the evidence presented at trial. While on patrol on February 12, 2004, at approximately 10:30 p.m., Hackensack Police Officers Justin Delabruyere and Brian Corcoran saw a blue Chevrolet van, heading westbound on Essex Street, cross over the double yellow line into oncoming traffic; this occurred on two separate occasions. The officers stopped the van and asked its driver (defendant) for his driver's license, registration, and insurance identification card, which he produced.

At this point, Delabruyere smelled alcohol emanating from the van, and asked defendant to get out of the vehicle. As defendant got out of the van, he used the vehicle to support himself. In response to a question from Corcoran, defendant stated that he had had a few beers. Based on these observations, Corcoran directed defendant to submit to field sobriety tests, including the one legged stand. Corcoran testified that defendant was unable to stand on one leg for more than one or two seconds; he was also unable to walk in a straight line or in a heel-to-toe manner.

Defendant was arrested at the scene and transported to police headquarters. While at headquarters, Corcoran read defendant the standard drinking/driving questionnaire. During this exchange, defendant indicated that he had his first beer at 7:00 P.M. and his last one at 9:30 P.M. He could not recall, however, the number of beers he had consumed, and he indicated that he had not eaten during this time period. Corcoran also apprised defendant of his rights ...

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