The Appellate Division Corrects Its Ruling in State v. Faber

State v. Faber, 465 N.J. Super. 1 (App. Div. 2020). As discussed here, last month, the Appellate Division affirmed defendant’s Municipal Court convictions but remanded for correction of his sentence. The panel cited two matters that the Law Division had overlooked in sentencing. One of those was a statutory requirement that defendant install an ignition interlock in his vehicle.

Today, however, the panel issued an opinion that “revises and replaces” the prior ruling. Judge Fuentes explained the reason for that. “After the opinion was published, the State filed a motion for reconsideration requesting that we remove this part of the opinion [that is, the part regarding the failure to install the ignition interlock]. The State argued that on December 12, 2016, the time defendant committed this infraction, the mandatory sentencing provision requiring the installation of an ignition interlock device under N.J.S.A. 39:4-50(a)1)(ii) and N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.17a(1)(b), was not legally in effect. The State pointed out that the Legislature expressly stated that this mandatory provision became effective on December 1, 2019.” As a result, the Appellate Division granted the State’s motion for reconsideration and revised its earlier opinion accordingly.

This is a commendable development in two ways. First, the prior opinion (and today’s revised version) admonished the State for not having addressed important matters. It is encouraging to see that the State took the admonition to heart and proactively advised the panel about the effective date of the ignition interlock statute.

Second, this is not the first time recently that the Appellate Division has acknowledged its own error. No one is infallible. It is appropriate for courts to recognize and correct their own mistakes, as this panel rightly did.