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State of New Jersey v. Manuel Rivera

January 26, 2012

STATE OF NEW JERSEY PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
MANUEL RIVERA, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Passaic County, Indictment No. 04-03-0321.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted November 2, 2011 --

Before Judges Lihotz and Waugh.

Defendant Manuel Rivera appeals from an order denying his motion seeking early termination of probation. Subsequently, defendant completed his probationary term, rendering his appeal moot. Accordingly, we dismiss.

On May 15, 2007, defendant pleaded guilty to third degree endangering the welfare of a child, N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4a. The court imposed a four-year non-custodial probationary sentence. During sentencing, defendant, desirous of moving closer to his family, requested to transfer his probation to the State of Florida. The transfer request was denied by Florida's Interstate Compact Unit.

After serving more than half his probationary sentence, defendant moved for the early termination of probation. The State objected, contending the terms of the plea agreement require probation to be served in New Jersey. The court denied the motion without prejudice. A second motion for early termination of probation was filed. Defendant presented exemplary conduct during the term and completed compliance with all requirements of probation. Again, the State objected. The judge denied the motion in an order dated September 16, 2010.

In a single point presented on appeal, defendant argues:

THE COURT ERRED IN CONSIDERING THE GUIDELINES ESTABLISHED BY THE ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE OF THE COURTS, WHICH IS MEANT TO GUIDE THE NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF PROBATION IN DEALING WITH CANDIDATES PLACED ON PROBATION, AS BINDING LEGAL AUTHORITY FOR DENYING APPELLANT'S APPLICATION SEEKING TO TERMINATE PROBATION EARLY.

Defendant was released from probation supervision on July 20, 2011. Defendant's present status renders our review inconsequential, because no justiciable issue remains for our review. N.J. State Parole Bd. v. Boulden, 156 N.J. Super. 494, 497 (App. Div. 1978).

"It is firmly established that controversies which have become moot or academic prior to judicial resolution ordinarily will be dismissed." Cinque v. N.J. Dep't of Corrs., 261 N.J. Super. 242, 243 (App. Div. 1993). "An issue is moot when the decision sought in a matter, when rendered, can have no practical effect on the existing controversy." Greenfield v. N.J. Dep't of Corrs., 382 N.J. Super. 254, 257-58, (App. Div. 2006) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). This is rooted in the longstanding position of our courts to avoid rendering "advisory opinions or function in the abstract." Jackson v. Dep't of Corrs., 335 N.J. Super. 227, 230-231 (App. Div. 2000), certif. denied, 167 N.J. 630 (2001).

We add only this comment. A court's determination to modify or terminate probation is governed by statute, specifically N.J.S.A. 2C:45-2a. This is the authority governing a court's determination on the issue. The General Probation Supervision Manual Outcome-Based Supervision Standards is a guide for probation staff, which may not serve as the foundation for a judicial determination.

Appeal is dismissed.

20120126 ...


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