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Ken is a NJ trial attorney who has published 130 articles in national and New Jersey publications on litigation topics. He has been selected to write the new ABA book: DUI and Drug Possession Defense".

Thursday, January 05, 2017

State V. Wardenski : State Proves Operation for DWI

14-2-2055 State v. Wardenski, N.J. Super. App. Div. (per curiam) (10 pp.) 
Defendant Stephen Wardenski appealed from his conviction for driving while intoxicated. Defendant was sentenced to a ten-year loss of driver's license; 180-days to be served in the Union County jail; installation of ignition interlock device on his vehicle for 13years and ordered to pay appropriate fines and penalties. After a police officer was dispatched on a report of a suspicious vehicle that was illegally parked, the officer observed a car parked one-and-a-half to two feet away from the curb. The vehicle was running with the keys in the ignition. Defendant was sitting in the driver's seat. The sole matter in dispute was whether defendant operated the vehicle. At the conclusion of the trial, the municipal court judge found defendant guilty, holding that the state proved beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant operated the vehicle while intoxicated by establishing the key was in the ignition and the engine was running. The judge determined that the position of the vehicle coupled with defendant's statement that he was coming from his backyard located a few blocks away supported a finding that defendant operated the vehicle. Additionally, the judge found defendant's claim that he did not intend to operate the vehicle upon the officers' arrival, but rather was helping a hurt friend, was not credible. The Law Division judge also found defendant's version of events not credible and found defendant either drove to the scene or, as evidenced by defendant being in the driver's seat with the keys in the ignition and the engine running, intended to operate the vehicle. The appellate panel rejected defendant's argument that there was insufficient evidence to prove that he operated the vehicle while intoxicated. Evidence of "intent to move the vehicle" satisfies the statutory requirement of operation; actual movement is not required.