On appeal from a Final Decision of the New Jersey Department of Corrections.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted September 24, 2008
Before Judges A. A. Rodríguez and Newman.
Appellant Derrick Williams appeals from the Department of Correction's decision, finding him guilty of disciplinary infraction *.204, use of any prohibited substances, such as drugs, intoxicants, or related paraphernalia not prescribed for the inmate by the medical or dental staff, in violation of N.J.A.C. 10A:4-4.1. The sanctions imposed were fifteen-days detention with credit for time served, 300 days administrative segregation, 180 days loss of commutation credit, 300 days urine monitoring, and a recommendation to the classification committee for consideration of an inmate's participation in an in-patient drug treatment program. We affirm.
On October 16, 2007, Corrections Officer Recruit Adamson observed the inmate snorting a white powdery substance with his right nostril, while his left index finger held his left nostril, and his right hand held his identification card. The officer saw white residue around Williams' right nostril. Officer Adamson reported the incident to Sergeant Petti. The sergeant responded and ordered the inmate to submit a urine specimen for testing. On-site testing of the urine sample was positive for opiates. The specimen was forwarded to the Department of Health and Senior Services Laboratory which, in turn, confirmed that the specimen tested positive for opiates.
Appellant entered a guilty plea at the court-line disciplinary hearing. The hearing officer found sufficient evidence to support a finding of guilt and imposed the sanctions previously described. The determination was upheld on appeal to the Associate Administrator, who also denied any request for leniency, concluding that the sanctions imposed were appropriate. He further noted that while appellant was charge free for two-and-one-half years, the infraction was serious and appellant was aware of the circumstances.
On appeal, appellant contends that there was a lack of substantial credible evidence to support the guilty findings; that his guilty plea should be rescinded because he was not properly informed of the consequences of such a plea; and that the sanctions imposed were excessive on a guilty plea for a first offense.
After a thorough review of the record, we are satisfied that the appellant's contentions are without merit. The decision of the prison authorities was supported by sufficient credible evidence and the arguments made are without sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(D)&(E). We, however, add the following brief comments.
It is clear that appellant was caught in the act of snorting drugs, which no doubt influenced him to enter a guilty plea with the expectation that it might minimize the sanctions to which he was exposed. The discipline that was meted out was within the parameters of the Administrative Code N.J.A.C. 10A:4-5.1 and the inmate handbook. The spectrum of rights to which appellant was entitled were provided to him. Avant v. Clifford, 67 N.J. 496, 525-33 (1975). Notwithstanding his plea of guilty, the adjudication of guilt for his infraction was wholly supported by substantial evidence in the record. Jacobs v. Stephens, 139 N.J. 212, 222-24 (1995).
With regard to appellant's contention that his guilty plea should be rescinded because he was not informed of the consequences of such a plea, this is not so. He was well aware of the consequences because they are spelled out in the Administrative Code N.J.A.C. 10A:4-5.1 and the inmate handbook. Furthermore, he had the assistance of a counsel-substitute who was in a position to advise him as to the consequences of his plea. Although he may have expected lesser sanctions because he pled guilty, that provides no basis to set aside the guilty plea he voluntarily entered.
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