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State of New Jersey v. Zuhirah Rasulalah

January 12, 2012

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
ZUHIRAH RASULALAH, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Municipal Appeal No. 2010-073.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted December 6, 2011

Before Judges Yannotti and Espinosa.

Defendant Zuhirah Rasulalah appeals from an order entered by the Law Division on February 18, 2011, which found her guilty of violating the Township of West Orange's (the Township) parking ordinances. We affirm.

The facts that gave rise to this appeal are not in dispute. Defendant is a physically-handicapped person. On June 27, 2000, at defendant's request, the Township enacted Ordinance 1707-00, amending Subsection 7-32.2 of the Township's Revised General Ordinances, which pertains to "Restricted Parking Zones" (RPZ). As amended, Subsection 7-32.2 establishes RPZs at specified locations, when the adjacent residences are occupied by a handicapped person issued a Handicapped Persons Identification Card pursuant to N.J.S.A. 39:4-205, and this handicapped person, or an immediate family member of the handicapped person who is an occupant of the same residence, was issued the corresponding windshield placard and/or wheelchair symbol license plates for a motor vehicle.

The ordinance further provides that, "[t]he specific parking stalls in front of the residences identified in this subsection shall only be designated a [RPZ] when a permit is issued and the handicapped person maintains his/her residenc[e] at that address." The ordinance states that, "In accordance with N.J.S.A. 39:4-197.6, parking is permitted in the [RPZ] except when prohibited in front of the residence by other sections of this Chapter." Defendant's residence was identified as the location of the RPZ. The ordinance stated that all other ordinances, or parts thereof, which are inconsistent with this ordinance "are hereby repealed."

In April and May 2010, the Township police issued four tickets to defendant for violating Section 7-12 of the Township's Revised General Ordinances, which prohibits street parking on days and at times designated for street cleaning and maintenance. Section 7-12 indicates that parking is prohibited on the south side of defendant's street between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 12:00 noon on Mondays.

In addition, on April 27, 2010, the Township police issued a ticket to defendant for violation of Section 7-50.3k of the Township's Revised General Ordinances, which prohibits parking in a municipal parking lot without a permit. Moreover, the Township police issued a ticket to defendant for violating Section 4-15.2 of the Township's Revised General Ordinances, which prohibits the abandonment of vehicles in the Township.

Trial in the matter was scheduled for August 17, 2010. Defendant failed to appear. The municipal court judge stated on the record that defendant was given notice of the trial date and that the court had not received notice that defendant had encountered any problems that would prohibit her from appearing. The court proceeded with the matter in defendant's absence. Special Police Officer Robert J. Stock (Officer Stock), who is assigned to parking enforcement in the Township, testified. The court found defendant guilty of the charged violations and imposed fines totaling $308.

Defendant appealed to the Law Division. Defendant did not challenge the summons issued for abandoning her car. She argued, however, that the summonses issued for parking at times designated for street cleaning were invalid. The Law Division filed a letter opinion dated February 18, 2011, in which it concluded that the municipal court correctly determined that defendant had violated Ordinances 7-12 and 7-50.3k.

In her appeal, defendant argued that Section 1 of the ordinance, which permits her to park in a RPZ, conflicts with Section 3 of that Ordinance, which repealed other ordinances or parts thereof that are inconsistent with the Ordinance. Defendant additionally argued that the conflict between Sections 1 and 3 of the Ordinance created an ambiguity that should be resolved in defendant's favor. The Law Division judge rejected these arguments.

The court found that Section 3 of the Ordinance did not repeal the restrictions on parking on days designated for street cleaning. The court stated that Section 3 provided defendant with notice of the limitations on her ability to park in the RPZ.

The court also found that Section 3 did not create an ambiguity for a reader "charged with interpreting" the ordinance's text. The court stated that the plain language of the ordinance provided defendant "with sufficient indication that although she is permitted to park in the [RPZ] she must still abide by" the limitations in the street-cleaning ordinance. The court additionally pointed out that Officer Stock left warning summons on ...


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