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State of New Jersey v. Mia B. Austin

September 16, 2011

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
MIA B. AUSTIN, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County, Municipal Appeal No. 70-2008.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted: September 12, 2011

Before Judges C.L. Miniman and LeWinn.

Defendant Mia B. Austin appeals her judgment of conviction for fourth-degree obstruction of the administration of law, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:29-1a; fourth-degree resisting arrest, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2a; speeding, contrary to N.J.S.A. 39:4-98; and expired registration, contrary to N.J.S.A. 39:3-4. She was not sentenced to incarceration or probation but was fined $500 for obstruction, $500 for resisting, $86 for speeding, and $26 for expired registration. Court costs and penalties were also imposed.

On April 26, 2005, Piscataway Police Officer Michael Joy was conducting a speed-enforcement radar detail on Haines Avenue when he determined that defendant was driving at forty-two miles per hour in a twenty-five-mile-per-hour zone. Joy flagged her to stop and approached her vehicle. She presented him with an expired registration card when he asked for her documentation. Defendant admitted that she knew she had to renew the registration.

Joy explained that the car would have to be towed and asked for the keys. Defendant would not surrender them, despite repeated requests. Joy requested backup and, when another officer arrived, instructed defendant to get out of the car and leave the keys on the dashboard. However, when she got out of the car, she took the keys with her and refused to surrender them. When she was placed under arrest for obstructing the towing and impoundment of her car, she then resisted handcuffing. She was ultimately subdued, and the officers pried the keys out of her hand. She was then charged with the above offenses.

Defendant pled not guilty at the first court appearance on May 10, 2005. Subsequently, there were nine court appearances over the next eight months, none of which was adjourned at the request of defendant. However, defendant's counsel failed to appear on February 23, 2006, and counsel was ordered to appear on February 28, which was then carried to March 1. On March 7, 2006, defendant objected to the multiple adjournments, the length of the delay, and the adverse impact all of the daytime appearances were having on her children and her employment. The matter was not rescheduled until May 11 on a try-or-dismiss basis, but the court again adjourned the matter four more times before beginning the trial on October 24, 2006. However, the judge did not have sufficient time to complete the testimony of Joy and adjourned the matter to January 23, 2007. When that appearance was adjourned, defendant's counsel demanded, verbally and in writing, that the municipal court provide him with "a detailed listing of any and all scheduled [court] appearances." The municipal court never complied with this request.

The trial resumed on March 6, 2007----almost two years after the offenses in question. Although the testimony of Joy was completed that day, the judge again adjourned the trial as he did not have sufficient time available to hear the next witness. This was the eighteenth court appearance. The matter was rescheduled to an agreed date of May 1, 2007, but that date was adjourned by the court to June 26, then to August 28, and then to September 25, 2007. The latter date, too, was adjourned, and defendant filed a motion to have the Piscataway municipal judge recused from the case because defendant had sued the Township. Yet no immediate ruling was made on that motion. The matter was relisted on October 23, November 27, and December 4 with no further testimony ever being taken. It was again adjourned to January 22, 2008.

On the latter date, the municipal judge had apparently not been reappointed to the bench, and the new judge declared a mistrial and transferred the matter to the Metuchen municipal court for disposition. The first appearance in Metuchen on April 4, 2008, was adjourned; it was now three years after the offenses in question. Two more scheduled appearances were adjourned before trial began on July 11, 2008. By that time, defendant had moved to dismiss for violation of her right to a speedy trial. The motion was denied, and the trial began that day. It resumed and was concluded on September 5 with defendant found guilty on all charges.

Defendant appealed to the Law Division where further delays occurred. The appeal was not decided until January 22, 2010---- four years and nine months after the offenses in question.

Defendant renewed her speedy trial motion, which was again denied. Defendant was convicted de novo on all charges. This appeal followed.

Defendant raises the following issues for our consideration:

POINT I - THE COURT ERRED IN DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR DISMISSAL BASED ON VIOLATION OF HER ...


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