NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted February 25, 2013
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Municipal Appeal No. 2011-056.
Law Offices of Fried & Oberndorf, attorneys for appellant (William R. Fried, Jr., on the briefs).
Carolyn A. Murray, Acting Essex County Prosecutor, attorney for respondent (Stephen A. Pogany, Special Deputy Attorney General/Acting Assistant Prosecutor, on the brief).
Before Judges Parrillo and Maven.
Defendant Christina Dirgo appeals from a May 21, 2012 Law Division judgment, finding her guilty de novo of driving while intoxicated, contrary to N.J.S.A. 39:4-50. She was sentenced to a seven-month license suspension, and monetary fines and penalties. We affirm.
The following facts were adduced from the trial court record. On July 27, 2011, at approximately 6:52 p.m., Officer Robert Shafer (Shafer) of the Verona Township Police Department was dispatched to a location on Bloomfield Avenue to investigate a motor vehicle accident. Upon his arrival, Shafer was met by a woman who stated that when she returned to her parked vehicle, she noticed that it had been struck by another vehicle. The woman directed Shafer to a note, which had been left on her vehicle. The note contained two phone numbers, presumably left by the owner of the other vehicle that had been involved in the accident.
Shafer contacted the numbers left on the note and, after leaving one or two voicemail messages, spoke with a female, later identified as defendant Christina Dirgo, at approximately 8:30 p.m. Defendant told Shafer that she had struck the other vehicle and left the note with her phone number. Shafer told defendant to bring her driver's license, registration, and insurance card to the police station so that he could complete the accident report. At approximately 9:00 p.m., defendant arrived at the police station.
Shafer met defendant in the lobby of police headquarters. Shafer immediately noticed a strong odor of alcohol emanating from defendant's breath. He also noted that her speech was slow and slurred, and that her eyes were watery. He questioned the defendant about the accident and requested her driving credentials, which she immediately produced. Shafer then left police headquarters to check the damage on defendant's vehicle while defendant remained in the lobby.
After noticing that there was no one inside or around the vehicle, Schafer asked defendant how she got to the police station. Defendant replied that she drove to police headquarters. At that point in Shafer's investigation of the motor vehicle accident, defendant had not been read her Mirandarights. Shafer then asked defendant to accompany him into the police station for field sobriety testing. Defendant was subsequently charged with driving while intoxicated and driving while intoxicated in a school zone.
On September 7, 2011, the Honorable John A. Paparazzo, J.M.C., considered defendant's motion to suppress and defined the issues as whether defendant was in custody, and whether Shafer subjected defendant to custodial interrogation while at the police station for the motor vehicle investigation. Defendant argued that her statements to police should be suppressed because she was not given Miranda warnings. Shafer testified that while he was investigating the motor vehicle accident, defendant was not under arrest but acknowledged, on cross-examination, that if defendant had tried to ...