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State v. Goines

Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex

November 5, 2018

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, Plaintiff,
v.
BENTEE M. GOINES, Defendant.

          Decided: October 19, 2017

          Brian D. Gillet, Assistant Prosecutor, attorney for plaintiff (Andrew C. Carey, Middlesex County Prosecutor, attorney).

          Dennis Alan Auciello, attorney for defendant.

          R. J. JONES, J.S.C.

         Rutgers University police arrested defendant Bentee M. Goines on July 17, 2016, in New Brunswick and charged him with driving while intoxicated. This appeal requires me to decide whether the officer had jurisdiction to stop, arrest, and charge Goines. The municipal court judge held that the officer lacked jurisdiction to do so and dismissed the charges. I reach a different conclusion.

         I. Background

         Rutgers University Police Officer Angelina Vartanova stopped Goines just south of the ramp from Ryders Lane onto Route 1. According to the officer, Goines illegally crossed a double yellow line to pass another car near a traffic circle where Ryders Lane and George Street meet. After seeing this, Officer Vartanova turned on the overhead lights to her police car and followed Goines to the Route 1 ramp, where she pulled him over. This occurred in the City of New Brunswick.

         After performing field sobriety tests and making other observations, Vartanova brought Goines to the police station for an Alcotest. The test showed a 0.14% blood-alcohol level, and as a result, police charged him with driving while intoxicated, which violates N.J.S.A. 39:4-50. When Goines appeared in the New Brunswick Municipal Court to respond to the charges three months later, his attorney moved to dismiss the summons for lack of jurisdiction.

         According to Goines, a 2004 memorandum of understanding between Rutgers and New Brunswick only allows Rutgers police to enforce motor vehicle laws on certain city streets. Without dispute, the offense and arrest did not occur on one of those streets. As a result, the municipal court judge agreed with Goines and granted the motion. This appeal followed.

         II. Standard of Review

         The State may appeal to the Law Division as of right when a municipal court enters a pretrial order dismissing a complaint. R. 3:24(b). On appeal, both legal and factual issues are reviewed de novo. C.S. v. Middletown Twp. Bd. of Educ., 259 N.J.Super. 340, 343 (App. Div. 1992). The appeal here involves a purely legal issue. Thus, I must decide the issue anew, with no special deference to the municipal court decision.

         III. Analysis

         The issue here is straightforward: Did Rutgers police have legal authority to stop and arrest Goines, as well as charge him with driving while intoxicated? More specifically, the question is whether Rutgers police had jurisdiction even though the offense took place on a New Brunswick street not covered by the memorandum of understanding between the city and university. In deciding this issue, several statutes come into play, and this appeal turns on their interpretation. Before getting to that, though, it is helpful to set out the law regarding jurisdiction generally.

         Jurisdiction is the predicate to a legal arrest. State v. Cohen, 73 N.J. 331, 342 (1977). Typically, police officers can only exercise the powers of their office "within the confines of the jurisdiction which employs them." Ibid. Therefore, absent legislative or other legal authority, if a police officer arrests someone outside the officer's home jurisdiction, the arrest is illegal. Ibid. In addition, evidence arising from the arrest will be suppressed. See State v. ...


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