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State v. Sturges

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

August 6, 2013

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
KIRSTEN STURGES, Defendant-Appellant.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued July 9, 2013

On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Morris County, Municipal Appeal No. 11-039.

Joshua H. Reinitz argued the cause for appellant (Iacullo Martino, L.L.C., attorneys; Mr. Reinitz, of counsel and on the brief).

Paula Jordao, Special Deputy Attorney General/Acting Assistant Prosecutor, argued the cause for respondent (Fredric M. Knapp, Acting Morris County Prosecutor, attorney; Ms. Jordao, on the brief).

Before Judges Ashrafi and St. John.

PER CURIAM

Defendant Kirsten Sturges appeals from the August 1, 2012 order of the Law Division finding her guilty of driving while intoxicated (DWI), N.J.S.A. 39:4-50. Defendant was sentenced to 180 days incarceration, [1] of which defendant could serve up to ninety days in an inpatient drug/alcohol treatment program, Intoxicated Drivers Resource Center attendance, ten years license suspension, and installation of an ignition interlock device for defendant's principal vehicle during her license suspension and two years thereafter. We affirm.

I.

The record discloses the following facts adduced from the trial de novo in the Law Division on the record developed in the municipal court.

On December 19, 2010, Officer Boris Sanchez of the Chester Township Police Department was dispatched to an automobile accident on Parker Road. When he arrived at the scene he observed that a vehicle had run off the road and was wedged against a tree or a bush. Officer Sanchez approached the vehicle and detected an odor of alcohol. He inquired whether defendant needed medical assistance and she responded "no." Defendant explained to the officer that there was a small white dog in the middle of the road which caused her to swerve. Officer Sanchez believed defendant was slurring her speech, "very talkative, " and "a little fumbly." He asked whether defendant had consumed any alcoholic beverage and she said she had had two.

Sergeant Edward Noonan of the Chester Township Police Department then arrived on the scene. When he was speaking to defendant through the passenger side window he observed her slurred speech and he also detected the odor of alcohol. He asked defendant to exit the vehicle and she did so "fumbling a little bit, and having a little trouble getting out of the car." Sergeant Noonan conducted a field sobriety test on defendant. He first administered a horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test, [2]and based on the results, Sergeant Noonan believed defendant was intoxicated.

Sergeant Noonan then had defendant perform a one-leg stand test. Defendant was instructed to stand with her hands at her side while she lifted one foot in the air and counted to thirty. While performing the test, defendant swayed and put her foot down after ten seconds. Defendant began the test again but swayed and had to raise her arms for balance.

Sergeant Noonan then conducted a walk-and-turn test. Defendant was instructed to walk heel-to-toe for nine steps with her hands at her side, to turn, and then take nine steps back. While performing this test, defendant missed heel-to-toe on every step, swayed, and made an improper turn. On her second try, defendant did not walk heel-to-toe and on her way back she took seven steps instead of nine. During the tests, Sergeant Noonan observed that defendant staggered as she walked. ...


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