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State v. Perez

July 29, 2009

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
ADRIANA PEREZ, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Union County, Municipal Appeal No. 5847.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted March 17, 2009

Before Judges Wefing and LeWinn.

Defendant Adriana Perez appeals from the February 1, 2008 judgment of the Law Division which, upon de novo review, found her guilty of careless driving in violation of N.J.S.A. 39:4-97, and upheld the $200 fine and $33 in court costs imposed by the municipal court. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

The pertinent factual background may be summarized as follows. On March 12, 2007, Officer Thomas A. Pryor of the Elizabeth Police Department was involved in a motor vehicle accident with defendant. Pryor testified that he was traveling westbound on Rahway Avenue on his police motorcycle; Officer Eric V. Shaffer was riding directly behind Pryor, also on a police motorcycle.

As Pryor approached the intersection at Burnett Street, he was behind defendant's vehicle. Pryor testified that Rahway Avenue is a one-way street in this area, and described the accident as follows:

[Defendant] was in front of me. . . . [S]he slowed down. We were behind her and she pulled over to the right side of the road. It appeared as if she was trying to park. She pulled over towards the curb. And as . . . I went by, she made a left turn. It appeared like she was going down Burnett Street without signaling right in front of me and I couldn't stop in time.

Pryor's motorcycle then struck the rear of defendant's vehicle. The officer estimated that he was driving approximately twenty miles per hour at the point of impact; however, the force of the impact threw him to the ground. Pryor testified that defendant gave "no signal to the left[,]" and "made a turn to the left directly across [his] path[.]" Officer Shaffer testified that he was "about 50 to 60 feet behind Officer Pryor . . . traveling the same direction on Rahway Avenue." He described the accident as follows:

I saw the vehicle in front of Officer Pryor . . . pull over to the right side of the road and slow [down] as if they were parking. Officer Pryor continued to go straight when the vehicle suddenly made a left turn with no signal on, as to go to Burnett Street. Officer Pryor couldn't stop and unfortunately struck the vehicle.

Shaffer stated that he was "in a position where[,] had [defendant] signaled a turn, [he] would have been able to see it[.]" Shaffer prepared an accident report, in which defendant "reported that she was traveling west on Rahway Avenue. She reported that she signaled the left turn and made the left turn and then was struck by . . . [Officer Pryor]." Shaffer issued a summons to defendant for careless driving.

Defendant testified:

I was going about 20 miles an hour. I looked in my rearview mirror and I saw the two officers having a talk. I put [on] my left-turn signal because I was going to find a parking spot on the left side. And because they kept on talking, they didn't see me and they just kept going straight. I have the picture here of my pickup truck where he hit me and . . . the picture and . . . the police report do not coincide. They're in conflict.

I went to the insurance company that same day. The body shop person said I would have to go get another report because it wasn't congruent with the photograph. The doors don't have any bumps or any damage to them. Defendant introduced her photographs into evidence; however, she did not produce any witness to testify as to the nature of the damage of her vehicle.

Defendant also offered Shaffer's accident report into evidence. That report contains a "[c]rash [d]iagram" showing defendant's vehicle turning left onto Burnett Street and Pryor's motorcycle colliding with defendant's vehicle on the driver's side. Defendant argued that her photographs showed that Pryor "hit with his handlebar . . . on the right[] [a]nd then he scratched it up . . . with his rearview mirror. ...


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