On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County, Municipal Appeal No. 9-2007.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges R. B. Coleman and Sabatino.
Defendant, Carly A. Woodward, appeals her convictions of driving while intoxicated ("DWI"), N.J.S.A. 39:4-50, and refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test, N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.2. After fully considering the points raised on appeal, we affirm.
At about 9:00 p.m. on September 18, 2005, defendant was sitting behind the wheel of her car. The car was parked behind a gasoline station in East Brunswick, with the engine running and its headlights illuminated. There were no passengers. Loud music was playing inside.
An East Brunswick patrolman, Officer Eric Wood, observed defendant in her vehicle. Officer Wood called in a second East Brunswick patrolman, Officer James Angermeier, Jr., of the police department's DWI unit.
After Officer Angermeier arrived, he asked defendant to turn down the music. Defendant lowered her window to hear what the officer was saying. As she did so, Officer Angermeier smelled the odor of alcohol emanating from inside the car. He asked defendant why she had parked at the service station. She replied that she was taking care of a personal hygiene problem. Defendant further stated that she was on her way to a local restaurant for a bartenders' meeting.
Although defendant denied that she had consumed any alcoholic beverages, Officer Angermeier perceived that her eyes were watery and bloodshot. He also noticed that she moved very slowly when pulling out her driving credentials. Based on these observations, and the smell of alcohol, the officer asked defendant to get out of her car. When defendant left the vehicle, Officer Angermeier observed that she swayed and staggered.
Officer Angermeier then administered a portable breath test, which indicated the presence of alcohol on defendant's breath. This led the officer to conduct several field sobriety tests. By the officer's observations, defendant failed two of those tests. First, defendant was unable to perform a one-leg stand correctly. In particular, she swayed, raised her arms for balance and dropped her raised foot to the ground for the last ten seconds of the thirty-second test. Thereafter, defendant failed the walk-and-turn test by not maintaining a consistent heel-to-toe gait, straying from a straight line, using her arms for balance, turning the wrong way and taking an extra step on her return.
Officer Angermeier arrested defendant and placed her in the back of his patrol car. He then drove her to police headquarters.
Once at headquarters, Officer Angermeier attempted to administer a breathalyzer test. He read defendant the standard statement prescribed by N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.2, outlining the consequences of a refusal to submit to breath testing. Defendant nonetheless declined to submit to the testing.
Defendant was issued three summonses charging her with a DWI offense and with a refusal violation, as well as reckless driving under N.J.S.A. 39:4-96. She pled not guilty, and her case was tried in the municipal court. The sole witness at the trial was Officer Angermeier. Defendant did not testify herself nor did she present any expert witnesses.
Defendant was convicted of both the DWI offense and the violation of the refusal statute, although the municipal court dismissed the reckless driving charges. In his oral decision, the municipal judge specifically found Officer Angermeier to be a "very credible" witness. The municipal judge determined that the police had adequate grounds to approach defendant's vehicle and require her to submit to field sobriety tests. The judge considered defendant's claim that she had difficulty with the field tests because the ground was allegedly uneven, and instead found credible the officer's testimony that the area was level, dry and well-lighted. The judge further determined that defendant had failed the field tests "very badly." The ...