January 26, 2009
IN THE MATTER OF CARLOS A. QUINCHE.
On appeal from the Final Administrative Decision of the Motor Vehicle Commission.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted January 13, 2009
Before Judges Skillman and Graves.
Carlos Quinche (Quinche) appeals from a final decision of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (Commission) suspending his driving privileges for a period of fifty-two months because of his involvement in a motor vehicle accident on December 22, 2006, resulting in the death of Neha Shende. On appeal, Quinche contends the Commission's decision is arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable. After reviewing the record, the briefs, and the applicable law, we affirm substantially for the reasons stated by the Commission.
During an administrative evidentiary hearing, Bryan Salmeron, who witnessed the fatal accident, confirmed that the following statement, which he gave to the police on the day of the accident, is accurate:
We were driving south bound on Rt 1&9 on the bridge when I saw a taxi, and a Camry. The taxi put on his hazard lights, and it seemed that they were racing. The Camry and taxi both started speeding up. At the curve after the bridge, the taxi lost control and hit the Camry on the backside causing the Camry to lose control. The right front of the taxi struck the left rear of the Camry. I know that they hit, because I saw the smoke from the tire striking the vehicle. The Camry crashed, and when we went a little further we saw the telephone pole falling. We stopped and then started to back up in case there was an explosion. We got out of the car and helped the people in the Camry. The taxi backed up, pulled into the diner, stayed about 1 minute, looked and [then] left the diner parking lot.
Q: Can you describe the taxi?
A: Yes, Yellow Cab #13, a Ford Crown Victoria[.]
Q: In your opinion how fast [were] the vehicles driving?
A: Over 80 MPH[.]
Q: Did you observe the taxi strike the other vehicle?
A: Yes, he struck the driver[']s side rear[.]
Q: How far was the distance from when the taxi struck the Camry, and the Camry hit the telephone pole?
A: Approximately 100 feet[.]
Q: How far was the distance you were traveling behind the 2 vehicles?
A: Approx. 8 car lengths[.]
In a written statement to the police, the driver of the Toyota Camry, Shoubhik Roy, confirmed that he lost control of his vehicle after the taxi cab struck "the back driver side area" of his vehicle. Unfortunately, Neha Shende, who was a passenger in Roy's vehicle, died as a result of the accident. Quinche did not testify at the administrative hearing, and he did not present any witnesses. However, in his written statement to the police, Quinche stated:
I was driving from the airport south on route 1-9. I got to the traffic light on E Jersey St[.] and there was [a Camry] with three people in it to my right hand side. The light changed and I took off a little bit faster than everyone else. As I was driving the [Camry] then passed me. Once we got off the bridge I saw the [Camry] lose control and smacked into the pole. I then saw sparks and wires falling.
Q: What type of vehicle were you operating?
A: Crown Victoria taxi cab, car #13 yellow cab[.]
Q: What lane were you traveling on Route 1-9 South?
A: On the left lane[.]
Q: How fast were you traveling on Route 1-9 South?
A: Approx. 70 mph[.]
Q: How fast was the [Camry] traveling on Route 1-9 South?
A: Approx. 90 mph[.]
Q: Did the taxi cab make contact with the other vehicle?
Q: Did you observe the accident?
Q: Why didn't you wait for the Elizabeth Police?
A: I didn't think it was necessary for me to wait[.]
Q: Why didn't you call the Elizabeth Police?
A: I notified my dispatch to contact the Elizabeth Police[.]
Q: Where did you [go] after the accident?
A: I went to the gas station on Route 1-9 and Fillmore[.]
Based on the testimony and documentary evidence presented during the administrative hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) found that the "statement of Mr. Roy [the driver of the Toyota Camry] as well as the statement and testimony of Mr. Salmeron were consistent and credible." The ALJ's findings of fact were as follows:
1. Carlos Quinche was driving a Ford Crown Victoria taxi at about 3:49 a.m. on Routes 1 & 9 south December 22, 2006 at an excessive rate of speed while racing a Toyota Camry.
2. Respondent Quinche's vehicle hit the left rear of the Toyota as they came to a curve on the south side of a bridge whereupon the Toyota driver lost control and hit a telephone pole ejecting passenger Neha Shende who expired from her injuries.
3. Respondent was both careless and reckless, he followed too closely to the vehicle with which he was racing, and he raced on a highway.
4. Respondent's behavior was knowing and willful.
Additionally, after reviewing Quinche's "Driver Record Abstract," the ALJ found that Quinche's driving record demonstrated a "disrespect for the law and a pattern of behavior consistent with the charges brought against him in this case."
Consequently, the ALJ found that the proposed suspension of his driving privileges, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 39:5-30, was both "reasonable and salutary."
In its final decision on January 3, 2008, the Commission determined that the ALJ's findings were "supported by substantial credible evidence in the record as a whole," and that the ALJ had "correctly considered" the factors set forth in Cresse v. Parsekian, 81 N.J. Super. 536, 549 (App. Div. 1963), aff'd, 43 N.J. 326 (1964), in recommending a fifty-two-month period of suspension.
Our scope of review of an agency decision is limited. In re Taylor, 158 N.J. 644, 656 (1999). "[A]n appellate court ordinarily should not disturb an administrative agency's determinations or findings unless there is a clear showing that (1) the agency did not follow the law; (2) the decision was arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable; or (3) the decision was not supported by substantial evidence." In re Virtua-West Jersey Hosp., 194 N.J. 413, 422 (2008); Brady v. Bd. of Review, 152 N.J. 197, 210 (1997).
In the present matter, the Commission followed the law and its decision is supported by substantial credible evidence.
Therefore, the Commission's decision is neither arbitrary, capricious, nor unreasonable, and we affirm substantially for the reasons stated by the Commission.
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