Appellate Court Affirms Probable Cause in Arrest Case
Docket No. A-2657-21
Decided August 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In a recent unpublished opinion, the Appellate Court of New Jersey decided defendant’s appeal from an August 2021 order denying his motion to suppress evidence seized following his arrest.
In late April of 2020, officers were advised about a robbery at the Grove Street PATH Station. The victim told the detective the robber was: approximately six feet and two inches tall; black; “on the heavier side;” and wore a neoprene-like mask, an “orange construction-like vest or jacket,” and dark colored pants.
After reviewing surveillance footage, detectives traced the suspect’s movements before the robbery back to Newark Penn Station. Detectives observed that the suspect had three distinctive rips on his jeans, as well as his height and weight compared to the station’s turnstiles. Surveillance footage from Newark Penn Station allowed the detective to determine what train car the suspect had ridden in. Approximately three and a half hours after the robbery, the detective met the train car to obtain its surveillance video when he saw defendant, who matched the description of the suspect. Defendant was informed he matched the description of a robbery suspect. Defendant was instructed to step off the train he had just boarded and was taken into custody. Officers then took defendant to an interview room. Before the interview, one of the item’s removed from defendant’s pants pocket was a benefit card with the victim’s name on it. Defendant was interviewed by officers and provided a statement.
Defendant eventually filed a motion to suppress evidence, contending police lacked probable cause to arrest him, and the search incident to arrest and his statement to police we unlawful. Defendant also challenged the voluntariness of his statement to police, but that issue was not raised in this specific appeal.
The trial court found that the totality of circumstances established probable cause for defendant’s arrest. The court noted that the facts illustrated the detective began investigating the robbery approximately thirty minutes after the incident, which continued until defendant’s arrest approximately three and one-half hours later. Thus, the trial judge concluded that because there was probable cause for the arrest, the subsequent search was valid as a search incident to the arrest. Defendant appealed.
On appeal, defendant argued that the very general description of the robbery suspect did not provide probable cause to arrest defendant three hours after the robbery at a different train station. Ultimately, the Appellate court agreed with the trial court’s determination and affirmed their ruling. The court articulated that the victim’s description of the suspect was not vague, and the subsequent details gathered by the detective, including the suspect’s movements and clothing, persuaded the court that the probable cause finding was not erroneous. Thus, the motion to suppress was properly denied.
At Hark & Hark, we are experienced attorneys who represent clients in Superior Court for issues like the previously discussed case pertaining appealing motions to suppress statements made and physical evidence seized unlawfully. 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.
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