NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued September 11, 2013
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Passaic County, Municipal Appeal No. 4990.
John J. Bruno, Jr., argued the cause for appellant (Bruno & Ferraro, attorneys; Salvatore R. Vargo, of counsel and on the brief).
Keith E. Hoffman, Senior Assistant Prosecutor, argued the cause for respondent (Camelia M. Valdes, Passaic County Prosecutor, attorney; Mr. Hoffman, on the brief).
Before Judges Fuentes, Simonelli and Fasciale.
Following a trial de novo in the Law Division, defendant Nicholas Jameson was convicted of driving while intoxicated (DWI), N.J.S.A. 39:4-50. Judge Yablonsky sentenced defendant to a three-month driver's license suspension and twelve hours in the Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (IDRC) program, and imposed the appropriate fines, costs and surcharges. This appeal followed.
On appeal, defendant raises the following contention:
I. THE STATE LACKS SUFFICIENT CREDIBLE EVIDENCE TO PROVE BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT THAT [DEFENDANT] OPERATED HIS VEHICLE WHILE INTOXICATED.
We reject this contention and affirm.
We derive the following facts from the record. While on patrol at approximately 1:15 a.m. on December 23, 2010, police officer Robert Miller from the City of Clifton Police Department was driving behind a gray Volkswagon. The officer followed the car onto Route 3 eastbound and saw the driver, later identified as defendant, immediately move into the center lane without signaling. Defendant then approached another vehicle in the center lane at a speed of approximately eighty to eighty-five miles per hour and began tailgating. Defendant then changed lanes without signaling and passed other vehicles on the right at a speed of between eighty to eighty-five miles per hour.
Defendant was cooperative, polite and respectful when Officer Miller stopped him, and dressed neatly in a suit and tie. However, defendant was unable to produce his driver's license and the officer saw that his eyes were bloodshot and watery. Defendant said he was on his way home from a Christmas party in Carlstadt and had consumed three or four beers. Based on Officer Miller's training and experience with "hundreds" of DWI investigations, as well as his observations of defendant's driving behavior, bloodshot and watery eyes, and admission to drinking alcohol, the officer formed an opinion that defendant was under the influence of intoxicating liquor and called for a DWI rover unit.
Officers Louis Reza and Michael Howe responded to the call and took over the investigation. Defendant was polite, calm and cooperative. However, while conversing with defendant, the officers detected an odor of alcohol emanating from him and saw that his eyes were bloodshot. Officer Howe also saw that defendant's eyes were watery. The officers asked defendant to exit and walk to the front of his car. Although ...