NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE
APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
This opinion shall not "constitute precedent or be binding upon any court." Although it is posted on the
internet, this opinion is binding only on the parties in the case and its use in other cases is limited. R. 1:36-3.
SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY
DOCKET NO. A-1585-18T1
STATE OF NEW JERSEY,
Submitted October 21, 2019 – Decided March 5, 2020
Before Judges Fasciale and Mitterhoff.
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law
Division, Somerset County, Municipal Appeal No.
Robert E. Ramsey, attorney for appellant.
Michael H. Robertson, Somerset County Prosecutor,
attorney for respondent (Lauren E. Bland, Assistant
Prosecutor, of counsel and on the brief).
Defendant Francis Scanlon appeals his June 21, 2018 conviction for
driving while intoxicated (DWI), N.J.S.A. 39:4-50(a), after a trial de novo in the
Law Division in which he appealed his municipal court conviction. On appeal,
defendant argues that he was not subject to prosecution under N.J.S.A. 39:4-
50(a) because the vehicle he was operating, a farm tractor, did not constitute a
motor vehicle as defined by N.J.S.A. 39:1-1. Having reviewed the record in
light of the arguments presented, we affirm.
The trial of defendant's DWI and related motor vehicle offenses was
conducted before the Branchburg Municipal Court on May 11, 2018. Counsel
stipulated to the following facts. On August 19, 2017, defendant was operating
a John Deere 4440 tractor against traffic in the westerly direction along the
shoulder of eastbound Route 22 in Branchburg. The police stopped defendant,
and he consented to and was administered psycho-physical evaluations along
the highway. A sample of defendant's breath, procured by way of administration
of an Alcotest, "returned a result of [a] .32 blood alcohol content." The Alcotest
was administered in conformity with State v. Chun, 194 N.J. 54 (2008).
Defendant had left the Royal Bar parking lot and was heading home at the time
of his arrest. He admitted to drinking five or six beers and to operating the
tractor while under the influence. The tractor was neither registered with the
Motor Vehicle Commission nor was it insured.
Despite these concessions, defendant argued that he was not guilty of
violating N.J.S.A. 39:4-50(a) because a farm tractor is not a motor vehicle as
defined by N.J.S.A. 39:1-1. The municipal court judge rejected defendant's
legal argument and found him guilty of the charged violation of N.J.S.A. 39:4-
50(a).1 The judge sentenced defendant to a 10-year driver's license revocation,
a 1-year interlock, $1389 in fines, 48 hours at the Intoxicated Driver Resource
Center, and 180 days in the Somerset County jail.
Defendant appealed his conviction to the Superior Court in Somerset
County. On November 1, 2018, Judge Peter J. Tober entered an order and
written opinion, rejecting, as had the municipal court judge, defendant's legal
argument. The judge determined that the legislative intent of our drunk driving
statutes is "to curb the tragedies associated with driving while under the
influence and the broad definition of a motor vehicle (which includes farm
tractors) justifies a conviction on the facts presented." Judge Tober reasoned
that defendant's farm tractor qualified as a motor vehicle under N.J.S.A. 39:1-1
because defendant "operat[ed] the . . . tractor with the primary intention of the
The remaining summonses were dismissed.
tractor transporting him from place to place." Accordingly, the judge denied
defendant's appeal and imposed the same sentence that the municipal court judge
ordered. Judge Tober stayed the portion of the sentence imposing the 180-day
jail term pending appeal.
On appeal, defendant raises the following arguments:
I. THE DECISION OF THE LAW DIVISION
RESTED ON THE AUTHORITY OF A CITED,
UNPUBLISHED OPINION AND AS SUCH
VIOLATED THE PROVISIONS OF RULE 1:36-3.
II. THE FARM TRACTOR DEFENDANT
OPERATED ON A PUBLIC HIGHWAY ON
AUGUST 19, 2017 IS NOT A MOTOR VEHICLE
WITHIN THE MEANING OF N.J.S.A. 39:1-1 AND
Because the parties stipulated to all the facts, defendant's appeal rests
solely on a narrow legal issue: whether a farm tractor is considered a motor
vehicle for purposes of N.J.S.A. 39:4-50(a).
On appeal, we "consider only the action of the Law Division and not that
of the municipal court." State v. Oliveri, 336 N.J. Super. 244, 251 (App. Div.
2001) (citing State v. Joas, 34 N.J. 179, 184 (1961)). We review a trial court's
legal determinations de novo. State v. Stas, 212 N.J. 37, 49 (2012) ("[N]o such
deference is owed to the Law Division or the municipal court with respect to
legal determinations or conclusions reached on the basis of the facts."); see State
v. Handy, 206 N.J. 39, 45 (2011).
N.J.S.A. 39:4-50(a) defines someone driving while intoxicated as "a
person who operates a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating
liquor, narcotic, hallucinogenic or habit-producing drug, or operates a motor
vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or more by weight of
alcohol in the defendant's blood[.]" We afford the terms of N.J.S.A. 39:4-50 a
broad reading in order to effectuate the legislative intent. State v. Tischio, 107 N.J. 504, 512 (1987). In that regard, we are "enjoined to give our drunk-driving
statutes the pragmatic and flexible interpretations necessary to effectuate the
Legislature's regulatory aims, while honoring the due process limitations
necessarily attendant upon the law's penal sanctions." Ibid. The legislative goal
in enacting N.J.S.A. 39:4-50(a) was "to curb the senseless havoc and destruction
caused by intoxicated drivers." State v. Marquez, 202 N.J. 485, 496 (2010)
(quoting Tischio, 107 N.J. at 512).
N.J.S.A. 39:1-1 defines a motor vehicle to include "all vehicles propelled
otherwise than by muscular power, excepting such vehicles as run only upon
rails or tracks, low-speed electric bicycles, low-speed electric scooters, and
motorized bicycles." Notably, a farm tractor does not fall within the enumerated
exceptions of the statutory definition of a motor vehicle. Additionally, a vehicle
is defined as "every device in, upon or by which a person or property is or may
be transported upon a highway, excepting devices moved by human power or
used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks or low-speed electric bicycles,
low-speed electric scooters, or motorized bicycles." Ibid. Again, a farm tractor
is not excepted from the statutory definition of a vehicle. Indeed, in this case,
the farm tractor was not only capable of transporting defendant but was in fact
being used to transport him on the highway from the local bar to his home.
Finally, a farm tractor is more specifically defined as "every motor vehicle
designed and used primarily as a farm implement for drawing plows, mowing
machines, and other implements of husbandry." Ibid. By its terms, the statute
defines a farm tractor as a type of motor vehicle. For these reasons, we conclude,
as did Judge Tober, that a farm tractor is a motor vehicle as defined by N.J.S.A.
Like the courts below, we are unpersuaded by defendant's argument that
Ferrante Equipment Co. v. Foley Machinery Co., 49 N.J. 432 (1967), narrowed
the definition of a motor vehicle to shield inebriated farm tractor operators from
prosecution under N.J.S.A. 39:4-50(a). Ferrante involved an action by the seller
of a bulldozer against a repairman, in which the seller sought to recover
possession of the bulldozer after the repairman asserted a lien for the cost of
repairs he had performed on the bulldozer. Id. at 434-35. The precise issue was
whether the seller's lien, which was perfected by virtue of its filing of a financing
statement, was superior to the repairman's lien. Id. at 435. The resolution of
that issue, in turn, depended on whether a bulldozer was a motor vehicle for
purposes of the Garage Keepers and Automobile Repairmen Act (the Act),
N.J.S.A 2A:44-20 to -31. 2 Id. at 434.
Noting that the Act contains no definition of a motor vehicle, the Ferrante
Court looked for guidance to N.J.S.A. 39:1-1. Id. at 438. The Court concluded
that the legislature intended the term "motor vehicle" to include "only those self-
propelled vehicles which are used on a highway primarily for purposes of
transporting persons and property from place to place, e.g., automobiles, trucks,
and buses." Ibid. The Court reasoned that "a bulldozer is used primarily for
excavation and building purposes and only incidentally to transport persons or
property from place to place." Ibid. The Court concluded that bulldozers "are
Under the Act, a prior perfected security interest has priority over a statutory
garage keeper's lien for an amount due for storage, maintenance, keeping or
repairing a motor vehicle. N.J.S.A. 2A:44-21.
not ordinarily designed and used for transportation of persons and property on
public streets," and the legislature did not intend to include such a vehicle under
the purview of the Act. Id. at 440.
We reject defendant's invitation to extend the reasoning in Ferrante
beyond its narrow factual and legal context. First, farm tractors, unlike
bulldozers, are specifically defined as a type of motor vehicle. N.J.S.A. 39:1-1.
More importantly, affording the terms of N.J.S.A. 39:4-50 a broad reading to
effectuate our Legislature's intent, as we must, see Tischio, 107 N.J. at 512, we
conclude it would directly contravene the legislative goal of curbing drunk
driving to allow the operation of a farm tractor on the highway while the operator
is under the influence. In that regard, we find that under a "pragmatic and
flexible interpretation necessary to effectuate the Legislature's regulatory
aims," ibid., whereas here, defendant utilized his farm tractor as a means of
transportation as he would any other motor vehicle, there is no question that he
is subject to prosecution under N.J.S.A. 39:4-50(a).
Defendant's argument that the trial judge impermissibly relied upon an
unpublished opinion in rendering his decision lacks sufficient merit to warrant
discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E).