October 13, 2009
STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
STEVEN EVANGELIST, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.
On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Atlantic County, Municipal Appeal No. 0045-08.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued September 24, 2009
Before Judges Skillman and Fuentes.
Defendant was charged in the Somers Point Municipal Court with driving while under the influence of alcohol, in violation of N.J.S.A. 39:4-50. Defendant moved to dismiss the results of the breath tests administered to him on the ground that the police did not have probable cause to arrest him. The municipal court denied the motion, following which defendant entered a conditional plea of guilty that preserved his right to appeal the denial of his motion to suppress. The court sentenced defendant to a $1,006 fine; $33 court costs; $200 drunk driving surcharge; $50 Violent Crimes Compensation Board penalty; $75 Safe Streets assessment; 48 hours at the Intoxicated Driver Resource Center; thirty days of community service; two year suspension of driver's license; and a three-year period of maintenance of an "ignition interlock device" on his car following the expiration of the license suspension.
Defendant appealed to the Law Division, which upon a de novo review affirmed the denial of his motion to suppress and imposed the same sentence imposed by the municipal court.
After defendant appealed his conviction to this court, we denied his motion for a stay pending the outcome of the appeal.
On appeal, defendant's sole argument is that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress. We reject defendant's argument and affirm the denial of his motion to suppress substantially for the reasons set forth in Judge Neustadter's October 1, 2008 oral opinion. We add the following supplemental comments.
It is undisputed that defendant was initially placed under arrest for assaulting his girlfriend, and that the police had probable cause to believe he had committed this assault. Therefore, the State was not required to show that at the moment of his initial arrest the police also had probable cause to believe that he had been driving while under the influence of alcohol. The State was only required to show that the police obtained evidence that provided "reasonable grounds to believe [defendant had] been operating a motor vehicle [while under the influence of alcohol]," N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.2(a), at some point before they administered the breath tests. The record contains more than sufficient evidence to support the trial court's finding that, regardless of whether the police had reasonable grounds to believe defendant had been driving while under the influence when he was first arrested for assault, they obtained such evidence shortly after his initial arrest and long before the administration of the breath tests. Consequently, the trial court correctly denied defendant's motion to suppress.
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