On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Hudson County, Municipal Appeal No. 10-09.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Sabatino and Ashrafi.
Defendant, William N. Adu-Tei, appeals his conviction of driving while intoxicated ("DWI"), N.J.S.A. 39:4-50, arising out of his arrest following a motor vehicle accident on the New Jersey Turnpike. We affirm.
The record indicates the following. At roughly 4:20 a.m. on July 13, 2008, a red sport-utility vehicle ("SUV") struck a tractor-trailer driven by Daniel Denofa on the New Jersey Turnpike, near Secaucus. The SUV crossed a solid line--which separated the Turnpike from an exit ramp for a rest stop--moved into the lane where Denofa had been driving, and struck Denofa's trailer on the side. After the impact, Denofa slowly brought his truck to a stop about an eighth of a mile farther along the Turnpike. The SUV proceeded to where the truck had stopped. Two occupants were in the SUV at the time.
In his testimony at defendant's trial in municipal court, Denofa recalled that, after the collision, one of the two men got out of the driver's side of the SUV and approached him. The man, whom Denofa initially presumed to be the driver, began conversing with Denofa. Denofa testified that the man did not appear to be under the influence of alcohol, but that "he was on something" and seemed to be anxious to leave the scene of the collision. At trial, Denofa identified defendant in the courtroom as the man he had spoken with after the collision.
After conversing briefly with the man who had approached him, Denofa called 9-1-1. Denofa was carrying U.S. Mail as his cargo and thus was required to report whenever he stopped his truck. According to Denofa, a State Trooper arrived shortly thereafter.
Trooper Thomas Krebs, who also testified for the State at the municipal trial, responded to Denofa's 9-1-1 call that night. Upon arriving at the scene of the collision, Trooper Krebs approached the passenger side of the SUV. He spoke to defendant and the second occupant of the SUV, William Adams, while the two men were seated in the vehicle.
According to Trooper Krebs, Adams was seated at the time in the driver's seat and defendant was seated in the passenger's seat. As Trooper Krebs recalled it, Adams told him that defendant had been driving the SUV at the time of the collision, but that the two men had then switched seats so that Adams could move the SUV out of the lane and onto the shoulder.
Defendant--who Trooper Krebs claimed appeared to be sleeping as he questioned Adams--then woke up and informed the Trooper that he, not Adams, had been driving at the time of the collision. Trooper Krebs noticed that the interior of the SUV smelled like alcohol, and that defendant appeared to have been drinking.
Trooper Krebs requested that defendant exit the SUV and asked him again whether he had been driving at the time of the collision. In response, defendant reaffirmed that he was indeed the driver.
Trooper Krebs then performed various field sobriety tests on defendant. Defendant was unable to complete the tests in a satisfactory manner. Consequently, Trooper Krebs placed defendant under arrest. Trooper Krebs thereafter administered a Breathalyzer test, which produced a blood-alcohol rating for defendant of.21%. Trooper Krebs testified that defendant did not say to him at any time after his arrest that he was not the driver of the SUV.
Defendant was subsequently charged with driving while intoxicated, N.J.S.A. 39:4-50; careless driving, N.J.S.A. 39:4-97; and making an unsafe lane change, N.J.S.A. ...