On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Morris County, Municipal Appeal No. 08-0109.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued November 17, 2010 - Decided Before Judges Fuentes, Ashrafi and Nugent.
Defendant Timothy Evans appeals from a judgment of the Law Division finding him guilty on de novo review of violation of two traffic offenses: backing his car in a street and thus interfering with other vehicles, N.J.S.A. 39:4-127, and failing to have in his possession an insurance identification card, N.J.S.A. 39:3-29. We affirm.
Two law enforcement officers and defendant testified at the municipal court trial, and the court took judicial notice of the condition of the street near the Morris County Courthouse where the charges arose.
Sheriff's Officer Zienowicz testified that he was assigned to perimeter foot patrol in the vicinity of the courthouse on August 1, 2008. At about 1:00 p.m., he observed a car moving in reverse on Schuyler Place for approximately 200 feet until it double-parked near the Sushi Lounge. He described Schuyler Place as a one-way street with one lane for traffic. The officer testified that other vehicles had to drive around the car moving in reverse.
The officer ordered the driver to pull into a parking space. As defendant stepped out of the car, his door struck a parked car, and the driver of that car complained that defendant had dented her car. Officer Zienowicz called a Morristown police officer to take an accident report. Defendant produced his driver's license and registration for examination, but he said he did not have his insurance identification card.
Defendant testified he had recently returned from overseas, his automobile insurance had just been renewed, and he thought he had not received his identification card at the time of the incident. He stated he showed the officers an envelope containing his renewal insurance policy and later learned the insurance identification card was in that envelope.
Regarding the moving violation, defendant testified that he was unable to find a parking space, and he circled the block. He then stopped on Schuyler Place and backed his car carefully and "incrementally" because he saw an open parking space behind him. He testified on cross-examination that a "lorry" and two or three cars went past him as he moved in reverse, but that he did not obstruct traffic. He admitted that the distance he backed his car was from the area near the intersection of Schuyler Place and Ann Street to the area of the Sushi Lounge, which he described as "one-third of the street."
Defendant called as his witness Officer Sylvin of the Morristown Police Department, who testified he came to take a report of defendant denting another car. He did not recall asking to see an insurance identification card or being given other insurance papers by defendant because it was a minor incident.
In making his decision, the judge of the municipal court summarized the testimony of the witnesses and also took judicial notice "of the activity of the streets within its vicinage."
The court stated: "This is 1 o'clock in the afternoon behind the courthouse. That street's going to be well used at that time of day. And there's no dispute that there were other vehicles on - on the road." The court found defendant guilty of both charges and fined him $156 for each, suspending the fine on the insurance card violation, and it added costs of $33 on each charge.
On trial de novo based on the municipal court record, the judge of the Law Division found the testimony of Officer Zienowicz credible and not disputed by defendant, whom he also found to be credible. The judge also noted his familiarity with the streets near the courthouse and described Schuyler Place as "very busy during the lunch hour." He found ...