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State v. Bates

SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY APPELLATE DIVISION


May 6, 2009

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
ELLIOTT BATES, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Monmouth County, Municipal Appeal No. M-07-085.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted March 23, 2009

Before Judges Reisner and Sapp-Peterson.

In this pro se appeal, defendant Elliott Bates appeals from the December 7, 2007 Law Division order, following a trial de novo, finding him guilty of driving an overweight vehicle on an intrastate bridge, N.J.S.A. 39:4-75. We affirm.

The ticket was issued on May 2, 2007, after a Freehold Township police officer, Richard Dentroux (Dentroux), observed defendant traveling over a twelve-foot-long bridge*fn1 on Jackson Mills Road. At the hearing before the municipal court judge, Dentroux testified that the bridge prohibits a vehicle bearing a weight load in excess of ten tons from traveling over the wooden bridge for safety reasons, given its age and condition. He indicated there are warning signs posted starting at one and one-half miles north of the bridge. Defendant did not dispute that he traveled over the bridge and that his vehicle's weight load at the time was in excess of ten tons. He also acknowledged that he was aware of the signs posted along the roadway warning motorists of the restrictions.

The essence of defendant's argument before the municipal court judge and the Law Division judge was that he was being selectively prosecuted because he observed "garbage trucks go over these bridges every day. No Freehold cops give them any tickets. I see lots of township trucks go over, lots of buses. And I know that those buses, when they're fully loaded, they're over ten tons[.]" The municipal court judge rejected defendant's argument and found him guilty of the charge. The court imposed a $1006 penalty along with court costs in the amount of $33. Defendant appealed to the Law Division.

The Law Division conducted a de novo trial on the record during which defendant renewed his argument of selective prosecution and the necessity to have the bridge repaired. He also argued that Dentroux was not authorized to enforce the statute.

In an oral decision rendered following oral argument, the court, citing State v. Horn, 120 N.J. Super. 203 (App. Div. 1972), found that Officer Dentroux was authorized to enforce the statute, that defendant candidly admitted that he violated the statute, and that he failed to produce any empirical data to support his claim of selective prosecution. The court also found that defendant's expressed concern that the "'bridge has been subject to decades of neglect'" was not a defense to the charge. He sentenced defendant to pay the previously imposed fines and costs.

On appeal, defendant once again advances his arguments that the bridge was in a state of gross disrepair, Officer Dentroux was without authority to enforce N.J.S.A. 39:4-75, and that issuance of the summons to him was the result of selective prosecution. We reject all of these arguments as lacking in merit and affirm substantially for the reasons articulated by Judge Thomas F. Scully in his December 7, 2007 oral opinion.

Affirmed.


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