Warrantless Search And Seizure Results In Suppression Of Weapons And Marijuana
- April 30, 2015
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After losing a suppression motion based on warrantless search and seizure, Peter Samuell pled guilty to fourth-degree possession of more than 50 grams of marijuana (N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10(a)(3)) in exchange for the dismissal of multiple other counts of drug possession with intent to distribute and firearms offenses after losing a suppression motion. Police in Trenton received multiple calls regarding the discharge of a handgun. Officers went to the front door of a house believed to be the possible location and surrounded same. While an officer was at the front door speaking to co-defendant Crawford, several others were surrounding the fenced in rear yard. Crawford appeared on the back porch and officers asked that he come to the fence to be frisked but he refused so Officer Bledsoe scaled the fence and detained Crawford. Several officers then entered the house to secure a large number of individuals inside and discovered marijuana, weapons and ammunition in plain view. The entry by police was warrantless and the defendant appealed the constitutionality of the entry in addition to attempting to suppress the evidence obtained as “fruit of the poisonous tree”. Wong Sun v. United States, 371 U.S. 471, 485, 83 S. Ct. 407, 9 L. ed.2d 441, 454 (1963).In State v. Samuell, the defendant appealed the warrantless search and the NJ Appellate Division reversed. The police did not have any probable cause to jump the fence onto private property in order to further their investigation of shots fired when they merely suspected criminal activity may be occurring on the property. State v. Jefferson, 413 N.J. Super. 344, 354-355 (App. Div. 2010). The NJ Appellate Division cited Kirk v. Louisiana, 536 U.S. 635 (2002); Payton v. New York, 455 U.S. 573 (1980); Schneckloth v. Bustamonte, 412 U.S. 218 (1973) and State v. Bolte, 115 N.J. 579 (1989) in holding that police must have a search warrant, consent to enter or the facts must fall under the exception to the warrant requirement as a person’s private property offers the highest degree of expectation of privacy from the intrusion of warrantless searches and seizures. The Appellate Division cited to the holding in State v. Sullivan, 169 N.J. 204 211 (2001) that “probable cause requires a ‘well grounded’ suspicion that a crime has been or is being committed” and found that was clearly not the case here where the shots fired could have come from any location in the area with a dog house in the back yard as described by callers. The Appellate Division considered the possibility of exigent circumstances permitting entry but found that none existed in review of the holdings of State v. Valencia, 93 N.J. 126 (1983); State v. Penalber, 386 N.J. Super. 1 (App. Div. 2006); State v. Hinton, 216 N.J. 211 (2013); State v. Holland, 328 N.J. Super. 1 (App. Div. 2000) and other authoritative decisions. The Appellate Division held that it was only upon Officer Bledsoe’s unlawful entry onto the property that the police had probable cause to believe there were firearms and drugs on the property and therefore the evidence was fruit of the poisonous tree which must be suppressed. If you are facing charges and believe evidence against you was obtained in violation of your Fourth Amendment rights against warrantless search and seizure, you should obtain experienced criminal defense counsel to fight your case. For more information about warrantless search, distribution of controlled dangerous substances (CDS), possession, CDS in a motor vehicle or other criminal matters in New Jersey visit HeatherDarlingLawyer.com. This blog is for informational purposes only and not intended to replace the advice of an attorney.