Appeal Of the Denial of Motion to Suppress Mirandized Statement to Police

State of New Jersey v. Nicholas Gomez-Zuniga

Docket No. A-0601-21

Decided May 22, 2023

Submitted by New Jersey Criminal Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark

In a recent unpublished opinion, the Appellate Court of New Jersey decided defendant’s appeal from the denial of his motion to suppress his Mirandized statement to police.

In July 2017, the State moved for pretrial detention of this defendant. Defendant appeared in CJP court for his initial appearance. At that time, the court addressed all defendants simultaneously appearing on the conference call and advised them all of their rights including the right to remain silent and the right to counsel. Defendant, who does not speak English, had his matter called first. With the help of an interpreter, defendant’s public defender advised him that the State had filed for detention and his hearing would take place the following Wednesday.

Following defendant’s appearance in court, detectives interviewed him in jail after he waived his Miranda rights. Defendant made an incriminating statement after he waived his rights. He was eventually indicted, and the State filed a motion to admit defendant’s statement into evidence at the time of trial, which was granted by the trial court.

After the trial court granted the State’s motion, defendant retained private counsel and filed a motion to suppress his statement, contending the State violated his right to counsel by conducting the interview after his initial appearance because his 6th amendment right to counsel attached at CJP because the State filed a motion to detain him, thus requiring counsel because the adversarial process had commenced. The trial judge denied defendant’s motion from the bench, articulating that the court found no authority which supported defendant’s argument.

Following the denial of his motion, defendant pled guilty to second-degree sexual assault against a child, who was less than 13 years old and defendant was at least four years older, codified under N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2(b). Defendant was sentenced to a ten year prison term, subject to the No Early Release Act, N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2, Megan’s Law, N.J.S.A. 2C:7-2, Parole Supervision for Life, N.J.S.A. 2C:43-6.4, and Nicole’s Law, N.J.S.A. 2C:44-8. As a result of his negotiated plea agreement, the State agreed to dismiss the remaining two counts of the indictment, first-degree aggravated sexual assault by sexual penetration against a child under the age of thirteen, N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2(a)(1), and second-degree endangering the welfare of a child by sexual conduct, N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4(a)(1).

After sentencing, defendant subsequently appealed his previously denied motion to suppress. He argued that the trial court erred by admitting his statement because his 6th amendment right to counsel attached at his first appearance at Central Judicial Processing (CJP), and police should have been prohibited from interrogating him without his lawyer being present. Specifically, defendant contended under the Criminal Justice Reform Act (CJRA), N.J.S.A. 2A:162-15 to -26, his initial appearance in CJP court was an “adversarial” criminal proceeding and, as such, the right to counsel attached before he made his statement to police. Thus, his statement to police after CJP court should be suppressed because he was interrogated without his lawyer being present.

The State countered defendant’s argument by indicating to the court that defendant waived his right to appeal from the denial of his suppression motion and his substantive arguments were “unavailing”.

The Appellate Court ultimately affirmed the trial court’s ruling. The court noted that defendant sought extension of well-established precedent that formal adversarial proceedings triggering Sixth Amendment protections commence upon the return of an indictment, and articulated that they agreed with the State because defendant failed to properly preserve his right to appeal, and his contentions otherwise lacked merit.

At Hark & Hark, we are experienced attorneys who represent clients in Superior Court for issues like the previously discussed case pertaining motions to suppress statements made in violation of Miranda. We work hard to ensure that our clients receive exceptional representation in order for them to receive the most favorable outcome in their case as a result.

We offer payment plan options to clients financially incapable of providing full payment upfront. If you are facing a similar situation to that of the defendant in this case, please call us to discuss the matter. At Hark & Hark, we represent clients for any case in any county in New Jersey including Atlantic County, Bergen County, Burlington County, Camden County, Cape May County, Cumberland County, Essex County, Gloucester County, Hudson County, Hunterdon County, Mercer County, Middlesex County, Monmouth County, Morris County, Ocean County, Passaic County, Salem County, Somerset County, Sussex County, Union County, and Warren County and any town including Audubon, Gloucester City, Oaklyn, Audubon Park, Gloucester Township, Pennsauken, Barrington, Haddon Heights, Pine Hill, Bellmawr, Haddon Township, Pine Valley, Berlin Borough, Haddonfield, Runnemede, Berlin Township, Hi-Nella, Somerdale, Brooklawn, Laurel Springs, Stratford, Camden, Lawnside, Voorhees, Cherry Hill, Lindenwold, Waterford, Chesilhurst, Magnolia, Winslow, Clementon, Merchantville, Woodlynne, Collingswood, Mt. Ephraim, and Gibbsboro.



Criminal Civil Lawyer

Jeffrey Hark is a New Jersey Civil and Criminal Lawyer.

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