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State of New Jersey v. Diana M. Palma

June 26, 2012

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
DIANA M. PALMA, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Monmouth County, Municipal Appeal No. 10-077.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

APPROVED FOR PUBLICATION

Argued Telephonically: November 28, 2011

Before Judges Lihotz, Waugh and St. John.

Defendant Diana Palma appeals from the custodial sentence imposed following her guilty plea to careless driving, contrary to N.J.S.A. 39:4-97. The municipal court judge sentenced defendant to a suspension of driving privileges for ninety days, fines and costs totaling $241, and a fifteen-day jail term. After a trial de novo in the Law Division, the judge imposed the same sentence as determined by the municipal court judge. The sentence was stayed pending appeal. The stay of the license suspension was consensually vacated and is not a subject of this appeal. After reviewing the record, we reverse and remand for resentencing by the Law Division judge.

Defendant's guilty plea arose out of a motor vehicle accident that took place on February 22, 2010, in Red Bank. Defendant was traveling eastbound on Bergen Place, then stopped at a red light at the intersection with Broad Street. After the light turned green, she made a left turn and proceeded northbound on Broad Street. At that time, a motorist in the southbound lane signaled to defendant that she had just hit a pedestrian. Defendant immediately stopped her SUV. Unbeknownst to defendant, she had dragged the pedestrian, who was lodged underneath her car, down Broad Street. Almost two months later, the victim died of injuries incurred in the accident.

Defendant voluntarily submitted to a blood test, which revealed she was not using intoxicating substances. Defendant also voluntarily produced her cellular phone records, which did not reveal that she was using her cell phone at the time of the accident. There was no evidence defendant intentionally struck the victim or had fallen asleep while driving. There was also no credible evidence defendant had run the traffic signal, exceeded the speed limit, or had acted recklessly. As a result, the State charged defendant with careless driving,*fn1 to which she entered a plea of guilty.

Defendant raises the following issues on appeal:

POINT I

BEFORE ANYONE IS SENT TO JAIL FOR CARELESS DRIVING CASES, THERE MUST BE A UNIFORM SENTENCING STANDARD TO BIND THE LOWER COURTS; THIS COURT SHOULD REVERSE MS. PALMA'S JAIL SENTENCE.

POINT II

EVEN IF STATE V. HENRY WERE APPLIED TO ALL CARELESS DRIVING, THE SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE DID NOT HAVE A COMPLETE RECORD AND IN ...


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