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State v. Pettas

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

August 7, 2013

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
DEMETRIOS V. PETTAS, Defendant-Appellant.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued April 25, 2012

On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County, Municipal Appeal No. 11-35.

Scott A. Gorman argued the cause for appellant (The Gorman Law Firm, attorneys; Mr. Gorman, of counsel and on the brief).

Annmarie Cozzi, Assistant Prosecutor, argued the cause for respondent (John L. Molinelli, Bergen County Prosecutor, attorney; Ms. Cozzi, of counsel and on the brief).

Before Judges Fuentes, Harris, and Koblitz.

PER CURIAM

Defendant Demetrios V. Pettas appeals from his July 14, 2011 conviction of driving while intoxicated (DWI), contrary to N.J.S.A. 39:4-50, after a trial de novo in the Superior Court.

Defendant was stopped at a roadblock and arrested for DWI on August 14, 2010. Defendant argues that the trial court improperly admitted evidence regarding the propriety of the roadblock, that the roadblock itself was invalid, that he was denied a speedy trial, and that there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction. We affirm.

I

These are the relevant facts. At approximately 3:09 am on August 14, 2010, defendant was stopped at a DWI roadblock established by the County of Bergen and Paramus Police Department on Paramus Road in the Borough of Paramus. Officers of the Paramus Police Department stopped every vehicle that came to the roadblock.

After directing defendant's vehicle to stop at the roadblock, officer Steven Nepola of the Paramus Police Department approached defendant and immediately detected an odor of alcoholic beverage on his breath. At Nepola's instruction, defendant stepped out of his car and submitted to several field sobriety tests.

Nepola first administered the One Leg Raised test, during which defendant was supposed to stand with his feet together and raise one foot approximately six inches off the ground for ten seconds. During his first attempt, defendant lost his balance after four seconds. Defendant completed the test on his second attempt, but, according to Nepola, "swayed from side to side to keep his balance." Nepola then administered the Walk and Turn test, during which defendant was supposed to take nine heel-to-toe steps forward in a straight line, turn, and take nine heel-to-toe steps back. Nepola testified that, despite being instructed to do so, defendant failed to count his steps aloud, that he "was leaning side to side" to maintain his balance, and that he could not walk in a straight line. Nepola also instructed defendant to recite the first half of the alphabet, through the letter "N, " without singing. Defendant twice failed to recite the letters of the alphabet, both times repeating letters out of order and trailing off in a "mumbling" fashion.

Defendant argues that Nepola improperly administered the field sobriety tests, undermining their validity. We disagree. In connection with the field sobriety tests, Nepola made multiple personal observations of defendant which he recorded in a DWI observations report shortly after the incident and filed with the Paramus Police Department. Specifically, Nepola observed: an odor of alcohol on defendant's breath, that his eyes were bloodshot, his face appeared flushed, ...


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