Man Is Charged With Possession Of A Firearm After Calling 9-1-1 To Aid Another
- April 9, 2015
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Donald Peterson was charged with second-degree possession of a firearm (N.J.S.A. 2C:39-7(b)) and fourth-degree possession of a machete (N.J.S.A. 2C:39-7(a)) as a result of being a good samaritan. Peterson called the Hillsborough Police to report an unconscious male in front of his residence. Ultimately a murder investigation ensued with regard to the man discovered, based on the suspicious death of the 16 year old male. The Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office obtained a warrant to search the residence of Peterson for evidence that the victim had been in Peterson’s residence including “hair, fibers, fingerprints, bodily fluids, DNA, and other microscopic/forensic evidence. During multiple interviews with police officers, after Miranda warnings, Peterson admitted to having a criminal history as well as possessing weapons. While searching Peterson’s residence, the police discovered a Winchester rifle and a machete which Peterson was prohibited from possessing under N.J.S.A. 2C:39-7 as a certain person prohibited from possessing weapons due to his prior criminal history. Although no evidence was discovered liking Peterson to the death of the man he discovered on his sidewalk, he was indicted for the weapons possessions charges. In State v. Peterson, the defendant sought to suppress the discovery of the weapons in light of the fact that, although discovered in plain view during the search, discovery was not inadvertent given his prior notice to officers of his possession of same. Over the State’s objection, the NJ Superior Court, Law Division- Criminal Part, Somerset County suppressed the weapons in reliance on State v. Bruzzese, 94 N.J. 210, 236 (1983) holding inadvertent discovery to be an essential element for application of the ‘plain view’ exception to the search warrant requirement. The NJ Appellate Division reviewed the matter and found the inevitable discovery doctrine to apply in this case involving a search warrant for evidence establishing the victim’s pre-mortem presence in Peterson’s residence. Pursuant to State v. Marshall, 199 N.J. 602, 611 (2009), a lawful search should be limited to the areas likely to lead to discovery of the intended object of the search. In State v. Sheehan, 217 N.J. Super. 20 (1987), the court determined that when a search warrant applies to the entire premises, any item discovered therein is lawful as within the scope of the warrant. The court determined that State v. Gamble, 218 N.J. 412, 412 (2014) provided the N.J. Supreme Court with the opportunity to strike down or limit inadvertent discovery doctrine yet the justices did not seize upon said opportunity. The court turned to State v. Sugar, 108 N.J. 151, 156-157 (1987) establishing proof required by the State to invoke the inevitable discovery doctrine as follows: “(1) proper, normal and specific investigatory procedures would have been pursued in order to complete the investigation of the case; (2) under all of the surrounding relevant circumstances the pursuit of those procedures would have inevitably resulted in the discovery of the evidence; and (3) the discovery of the evidence through the use of such procedures would have occurred wholly independently of the discovery of such evidence by unlawful means.” Based on Peterson’s statements to police regarding his criminal history and his possession of the rifle, a warrant would have properly issued for a search for the weapon wholly independent of the warrant related to whether the victim had been present in Peterson’s residence pre-mortem. The NJ Appellate Division found the inevitable discovery doctrine to apply in this matter and reversed the trial court’s suppression of the rifle. If you are facing weapons charges, you should seek experienced criminal defense counsel immediately to protect your rights. For more information about weapons possession, use or possession of a gun in the commission of a crime, possession of a handgun without a permit, certain persons not to possess weapons or weapons charges in New Jersey visit HeatherDarlingLawyer.com. This blog is for informational purposes and not intended to replace the advice of an attorney.