April 28, 2011
STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
YAZUAKI R. TEJADA, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.
On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County, Indictment No. 03-01-0025.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued March 22, 2011
Before Judges Messano and St. John.
Defendant Yazuaki R. Tejada appeals from a trial court order denying his petition for post-conviction relief (PCR).
After reviewing the record in light of the contentions advanced on appeal, we affirm.
On October 18, 2002, defendant went to the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) (now the Motor Vehicle Commission) in Edison, New Jersey to obtain a driver's license. He presented two documents to the DMV - a social security card and a resident alien card - purportedly issued by the United States Government. Defendant acknowledged that the cards presented to the DMV were not issued by the government, but were purchased by defendant "on the street." All of the identifiers on the cards were defendant's correct identifiers.
On March 6, 2006, defendant pleaded guilty to a violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:21-2.1c. On the date of the offense, the statute stated:
A person who knowingly exhibits, displays or utters a document or other writing which falsely purports to be a driver's license or other document issued by a governmental agency and which could be used as a means of verifying a person's identity or age is guilty of a crime of the fourth degree.*fn1
On May 12, 2006, defendant was sentenced to a three-year probationary term, and appropriate fines and penalties were imposed. Defendant did not appeal his conviction and sentence. Defendant filed a PCR petition, which was heard by Judge Bradley J. Ferencz and denied.
Defendant raises two points in his appeal.
The Defendant Was Not Guilty of N.J.S.A. 2C:21-2.1d as a Matter of Law.*fn2
N.J.S.A. 2C:21-2.1d is Unconstitutionally Vague, and if Not Vague, Cannot be Construed to Prohibit the Defendant's Actions in this Case.
Defendant argues that because at one time he had governmentally-issued cards and because the identifiers on the cards presented to the DMV were accurate, presenting non-governmentally issued cards does not violate the provisions of N.J.S.A. 2C:21-2.1c.*fn3
At the time of the plea, defendant admitted that he knew the cards were not governmentally issued and that they could be used as a means of verifying his identity or age.
To the extent that the trial court's decision implicates legal principles, we independently evaluate those legal assessments de novo. See Manalapan Realty, L.P. v. Twp. Comm. of Manalapan, 140 N.J. 366, 378 (1995); Finderne Mgmt. Co., Inc. v. Barrett, 402 N.J. Super. 546, 573 (App. Div. 2008), certif. denied, 199 N.J. 542 (2009). We consider the merits of defendant's petition.
Although the identifiers were arguably accurate, defendant knowingly presented documents which were not issued by a governmental agency. His assertion that he did not violate the statute is without merit. Under the plain language of the statute, defendant's violation is patent. We find defendant's argument to be without sufficient merit to warrant further discussion in this opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(2).
Defendant's second point is also without merit. The constitutional doctrine of vagueness is "essentially a procedural due process concept grounded in notions of fair play." State v. Emmons, 397 N.J. Super. 112, 124 (App. Div. 2007) (quoting State v. Lashinsky, 81 N.J. 1, 17, 404 (1979)), certif. denied, 151 N.J. 470 (1997). The Supreme Court summarized the underlying concerns as follows:
Clear and comprehensible legislation is a fundamental prerequisite of due process of law, especially where criminal responsibility is involved. Vague laws are unconstitutional even if they fail to touch constitutionally protected conduct, because unclear or incomprehensible legislation places both citizens and law enforcement officials in an untenable position. Vague laws deprive citizens of adequate notice of proscribed conduct, and fail to provide officials with guidelines sufficient to prevent arbitrary and erratic enforcement. [State v. Mortimer, 135 N.J. 517, 532 (quoting State v. Afanador, 134 N.J. 162, 170 (1993)), cert. denied, 513 U.S. 970, 115 S. Ct. 440, 130 L. Ed. 2d 351 (1994).]
We have noted that "[a] criminal statute is not impermissibly vague so long as a person of ordinary intelligence may reasonably determine what conduct is prohibited so that he or she may act in conformity with the law." Saunders, supra, 302 N.J. Super. at 520-21. The test for vagueness hinges on whether "persons 'of common intelligence must necessarily guess at [the statute's] meaning and differ as to its application.'" Mortimer, supra, 135 N.J. at 532. Further, analysis under this standard is not "'a linguistic analysis conducted in a vacuum,' but requires consideration of the questioned provision itself, related provisions, and the reality in which the provision is to be applied." Saunders, supra, 302 N.J. Super. at 521.
Unless the statutory framework suggests otherwise, "the words used in a statute carry their ordinary and well-understood meanings." Mortimer, supra, 135 N.J. at 532; see also Lashinsky, supra, 81 N.J. at 18 (adding common intelligence, coupled with "ordinary human experience," to the assessment of "vagueness"). After repeating this common-sense standard, the Supreme Court analyzed the challenged statute by referencing Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary. Mortimer, supra, 135 N.J. at 532.
Defendant claims that the statute is unconstitutionally vague and, if not vague, cannot be construed to prohibit his conduct. We disagree. A common sense examination of the words used in the statute demonstrates otherwise. "False" is defined as "being contrary to truth or fact," "deliberately untrue," "intentionally deceptive," or "resembling but not accurately or properly designated as such." Webster's II New College Dictionary 404 (1995). "Purport" is defined as "to have or present the appearance, often false, of being or intending." Id. at 900.
We do not agree with defendant that the statute is either unconstitutionally vague or cannot be construed to prohibit his conduct. A person of ordinary intelligence could reasonably determine that defendant's conduct in presenting nongovernmentally issued identification to the DMV is prohibited by N.J.S.A. 2C:12-2.1c.