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State v. Baines

July 14, 2010


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Mercer County, Indictment No. 07-04-0492.

Per curiam.


Submitted: January 27, 2010

Before Judges Cuff and C.L. Miniman.

Defendant James A. Baines appeals from a judgment convicting him of second-degree eluding, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2b, on which a sentence of eight years with a parole disqualifier of forty-two months was imposed, made to run concurrently with a sentence he was serving for a violation of parole. We affirm.

The evidence at trial established that on February 21, 2007, at about 3:30 a.m. Trenton Police Officer David Ordille and his partner, Officer Gregory Hollo, were on routine patrol. At the intersection of Morris Avenue and Division Street, Ordille observed a gold Toyota being operated by defendant on Morris Avenue fail to stop at the stop sign. In executing a right turn, defendant almost struck Ordille's vehicle. The officer activated his lights. Rather than stopping, defendant doubled his speed and continued down Division Street. Ordille kept pace, about two to three car lengths behind him.

Defendant made a left turn onto Williams Street, continuing to drive at about forty-five to fifty miles per hour through a residential neighborhood. He drove through a stop sign at Anderson Street and another one at Liberty Street. At that point, he struck a vehicle on Liberty Street, which was lawfully proceeding through the intersection. Ordille was about fifty to one hundred yards behind defendant.

Ordille stopped his vehicle and approached the gold Toyota. He observed defendant, smelling of alcohol, slumped over the passenger seat. Although conscious, he did not appear to be able to move or exit the car and complained of being hurt. The officers radioed for an ambulance and went to check on the other vehicle. The two people in the vehicle defendant struck were not injured.

Ordille issued summonses for being an unlicensed driver and failing to stop at the stop signs. At the hospital, a nurse drew blood from defendant to test for alcohol. An indictment was returned on April 10, 2007, charging defendant with second-degree eluding police, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2b, and fourth-degree resisting arrest, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2a(2).

The trial was conducted on January 23 and 29-31, 2008. Initially, the State moved to dismiss the resisting-arrest charge, which was granted. Ordille testified to the events he observed on February 21, 2007, as described above, and identified defendant as the operator of the gold Toyota. He also testified about the various photographs that had been taken of the scene and the vehicles involved in the crash.

Giovannia Salas Alvazado testified that she was driving home from work on February 21 on Liberty Street when suddenly at a corner a vehicle ran the red light and collided with her vehicle. Her car was a total loss. She did not see the police car until after the accident.

Detective Rick Rivera testified that he was assigned to the fatal crash investigation team. That team investigates fatal crashes; all crashes involving serious, life-threatening injuries; and all crashes involving police officers in one way or another. He was qualified as an expert and testified he investigated this accident. That investigation demonstrated that the accident occurred as Ordille described it. There were no pre-accident skid marks, and the vehicles impacted almost right in the middle of the intersection. He could not determine the speed of defendant's vehicle. The crash was a simple, basic crash anyone could figure out. After completing the investigation, he signed a complaint against defendant for driving while intoxicated and reckless driving. He prepared a diagram of the accident and testified about it.

Officer Joseph D'Ambrosio testified he became involved in this case when he responded to the scene to assist the officers already there. Sergeant Luddie Austin instructed him to accompany defendant, who was still sitting in his car, to the hospital for treatment. D'Ambrosio rode with defendant in the back of the ambulance. D'Ambrosio was to wait for a blood kit, which was being delivered to the hospital by another officer, to obtain defendant's blood and take it back to police headquarters for testing. When the blood kit arrived, he gave it to a nurse, who drew defendant's blood and returned the kit to D'Ambrosio. The sample was labeled and sealed by D'Ambrosio. He then waited while defendant was being treated. When defendant was discharged, D'Ambrosio called for a transport to take him and defendant to police headquarters. Once there, he prepared a property report and gave the report and blood kit to the commanding officer, who placed the sample in the refrigerator.

The registered nurse who supervised the blood draw, Leah Mihaly, testified to the procedure followed in obtaining defendant's blood and giving the blood kit to D'Ambrosio. Tara Mayka, a State toxicologist, testified at trial that defendant's blood-alcohol content was ...

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