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State v. Riebe

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

November 15, 2013

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, Plaintiff-Respondent,
JEFFREY RIEBE, Defendant-Appellant.


Submitted August 20, 2013.

On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County, Municipal Appeal No. 6-2012.

Levow & Associates, P.A., attorneys for appellant (Evan M. Levow, of counsel and on the brief; Kimberly A. Schultz, on the brief).

Andrew C. Carey, Acting Middlesex County Prosecutor, attorney for respondent (Brian D. Gillet, Special Deputy Attorney General/ Acting Assistant Prosecutor, of counsel and on the brief; Matthew P. Tallia, on the brief).

Before Judges Graves and Simonelli.


On January 13, 2006, defendant Jeffrey Riebe was charged with six motor vehicle offenses: driving while intoxicated (DWI), N.J.S.A. 39:4-50; refusal to submit to an Alcotest, N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.2; driving with a suspended license, N.J.S.A. 39:3-40; failure to produce vehicle registration, N.J.S.A. 39:3-29; driving an uninsured vehicle, N.J.S.A. 39:6B-2; and reckless driving, N.J.S.A. 39:4-96. Defendant also received a complaint summons for hindering his own apprehension by providing false information to a law enforcement officer, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:29-3(b)(4). On January 30, 2012, the municipal court found defendant guilty of all of the charges except for driving with a suspended license. Following a de novo review by a Law Division judge, defendant was again found guilty of the charges. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

At the outset of the municipal court trial, the judge denied defendant's request to recuse himself because he was aware that defendant could be exposed to enhanced penalties. In denying the request, the judge noted that defendant's counsel "wanted more time to file briefs because they said there was an enhanced penalty." The judge also stated, "I haven't reviewed this case, I don't know the facts of the case frankly, except that the request for adjournments have been numerous by defense counsel because of some enhanced penalty."

During the municipal court proceedings, Detective Garrett Cassio of the South Plainfield Police Department was the State's primary witness. Cassio testified that on January 13, 2006, at approximately 12:45 a.m., he was on routine patrol in the area of Hamilton Boulevard and New Market Avenue in South Plainfield, when he observed a black Nissan Pathfinder make a "dangerous" left turn into the area of the Liquid Assets Gentlemen's Club. A computer check of the license plate revealed the vehicle was registered to defendant, whose driver's license was suspended, and there was an outstanding warrant for defendant's arrest. Cassio observed the parked vehicle and "a large white male, " later identified as defendant, walking towards the entrance of the bar. Cassio continued on patrol, but returned to the area approximately one-half hour later.

At that time, Cassio observed defendant enter his vehicle and exit the parking lot. Defendant made a right-hand turn onto New Market Street and accelerated to approximately forty-to-forty-five miles per hour in a twenty-five mile per hour zone. Cassio activated his overhead lights and observed defendant make a sharp left-hand turn onto Rio Street and turn into the only driveway on the street. Defendant then exited his vehicle and began walking while Cassio pulled in behind him. Cassio observed defendant was "a little off balance" and directed defendant back into his vehicle. Cassio approached defendant and asked if it was his house. Defendant responded it was not. When asked to produce his driving credentials, defendant said he did not have the documents and that "his wife had all the information." Defendant said his name was James Riebe, [1] his twin brother, and provided James's information, including his address.

Defendant was ordered out of the vehicle and Officer Antonio Grasso arrived on the scene to provide backup. While searching the interior of the vehicle for registration information, Cassio "smelled a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage." Cassio also stated that while he was speaking to defendant outside of the vehicle, he "smelled the strong odor of an alcoholic beverage coming off [defendant]." Cassio asked defendant if he had been drinking, and defendant responded "he had a couple beers."

Cassio conducted a computer check of motor vehicle records, which indicated that James was five feet ten inches tall, approximately four inches shorter than defendant. Cassio stated defendant's speech was "slurred" and "slow" and further testified:

[Defendant's] voice was hoarse. He was standing, first he was standing rigid. Then, when he was leaning on the car, he was sagging his knees, his eyes were very watery and bloodshot. Based on his driving, him being very deceitful, the observation of his watery eyes, his hoarse ...

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