On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Morris County, Municipal Appeal No. 09-060.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted February 9, 2011
Before Judges Cuff and Sapp-Peterson.
Defendant was arrested in June 2009 and charged with driving while under the influence (DWI), N.J.S.A. 39:4-50; refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test, N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.4a; failure to maintain lane, N.J.S.A. 39:4-88; failure to exhibit registration, N.J.S.A. 39:3-29; possession of a controlled dangerous substance by a motor vehicle operator, N.J.S.A. 39:4-49.1; and possession of a controlled dangerous substance, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10a. He pled not guilty to the charges. On the trial date, December 14, 2009, defendant withdrew his not guilty pleas and entered a plea of guilty to DWI. The State dismissed the remaining charges.
Defendant's guilty plea represented his fourth conviction for DWI. Accordingly, the court imposed a six-month custodial sentence, a ten-year loss of his driving privileges, along with the appropriate fines and penalties. The court stayed imposition of the sentence for one week in order to afford defendant the opportunity to put his affairs in order. The court directed that defendant surrender to officials at the Pequannock Township Municipal Court on December 21, 2009.
Defendant surrendered as ordered, but was accompanied by new counsel, who handed the municipal judge a motion to withdraw defendant's guilty plea. The judge considered the motion at that time, taking testimony from defendant and hearing arguments from counsel. At the conclusion of the hearing, he denied the motion. On trial de novo to the Law Division, the court denied defendant's motion to withdraw his guilty plea and re-sentenced defendant in accordance with the sentence imposed by the municipal court. The court continued defendant's bail pending appeal along with additional conditions. The present appeal followed.
On appeal, defendant raises the following points for our consideration:
THE INTERESTS OF JUSTICE DICTATE THAT MR. SALATERSKI SHOULD BE PERMITTED TO WITHDRAW HIS GUILTY PLEA AND PROCEED TO TRIAL IN THIS MATTER.
MR. SALATERSKI'S PLEA, ENTERED UNDER DURESS AND COERCION, WAS NOT KNOWING OR VOLUNTARY AND[,] THUS, MR. SALATERSKI WAS DENIED DUE PROCESS OF LAW.
We have considered the points raised on appeal and conclude they are without sufficient merit to warrant extensive discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(2). We add the following comments.
It appears there were a number of proceedings and letters to the municipal court judge before the December 14 trial date. Most of the correspondence dealt with the question of defendant presenting expert testimony related to his psychological/psychiatric state. As of December 14, however, no expert report was produced nor was any expert named. After defense counsel advised the court that defendant was withdrawing his guilty plea, the municipal judge personally inquired of defendant whether he understood the consequences of his guilty plea, whether the plea was being entered voluntarily, whether defendant felt that he was being forced to plead ...