Guilty of Third-Degree Possession of a Controlled Substance, Namely Marijuana, With Intent to Distribute and Numerous Other Charges
Submitted by New Jersey Criminal Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark
Defendant Darren E. Richardson was found guilty of third-degree possession of a controlled substance, namely marijuana, with intent to distribute and numerous other charges. He was sentenced to eight years of incarnation with four years of parole ineligibility.
Detective Vincent Ricciardelli employed by Wayne Police Department (WPD) and Detective Paul Kindler were looking into Shaina Harris for drug activity. They had a warrant to search Harris’ residence, but she had not been there. Harris had been observed entering the Ramada Inn, and then the detective decided to set up surveillance there. They had found the defendant at this same hotel. This is not the first time the defendant has run into problems with law enforcement. The defendant was supposed to be on home detention as a condition of his bail release or other CDS charges and a narcotics investigation. The hotel manager informed the detectives what room the defendant had been staying in. Ricciardelli stated that it appeared to look like drug activity was taking place around the defendant’s room. He had observed several people coming in and out of the room. Ricciardelli then observed another female, later identified as Ramirez, arrived at the hotel in a white Mercedes. She used a key card to enter the defendant’s room. After leaving the room, she headed back to her vehicle, and later that day the defendant put a plastic bag and a brown paper bag into the Mercedes. Ramirez then drove away. Later, a white Nissan arrives, the two men in the car met the defendant, showed him what was in their black plastic bag, then emerged from the room with a different bag. Police were later radioed in to investigate the Nissan and the passengers.
Detective Ricciardelli decided to secure the defendant’s room and either obtain consent to search the room or apply for a search warrant. He was concerned evidence would be altered or destroyed and had reasonable cause to search the hotel room. He knocked on the door and loudly announced “Police”. The door was slightly open, and he could smell the heavy odor of marijuana. The defendant, Ramirez, and another were found in the room. The officer placed them under arrest and removed them from the room. WPD then stationed two officers outside and locked the door to ensure that no one went in or out of the room and were monitoring Ramirez’s Mercedes. In the hotel room, they found many forms of evidence such as a smoked marijuana cigarette, sandwich bags, THC oil, a pipe to smoke THC oil, a digital scale, two bags of raw marijuana, and other drug-related items. They also found $3055 in cash on the nightstand rolled into thousands. In the Mercedes, the officers recovered $17,500 in cash rolled into thousands like seen in the defendant’s hotel room. After sending in a K-9 unit to search the Mercedes there were no drugs found in the vehicle. The two men in the Nissan were pulled over by the police. When police approached the car, there was a strong odor of marijuana. Which was found in the waistband of one of the men in the Nissan, and they were arrested. When the police searched the Nissan, they uncovered $17,500 rolled into thousands similar to the ones found in the Mercedes and the defendant’s hotel room.
On appeal, the defendant posed many arguments about the specifics of his drug charges and a motion to suppress evidence found in his hotel room. The main argument the defense was trying to persuade the court was the police unlawfully searched the defendant’s room and the Mercedes. During the trial, the testimony of the defendant’s acquaintances, such as one of the men in the Nissan, matched the detective’s testimony and further explained why the defendant was guilty of these CDS charges. The appellate court agreed with the trial court on their decisions. The court concluded that the detectives had enough evidence to secure the room to preserve the evidence. The court also decided that the defendant’s additional arguments (related to the drugs found in the room) lacked sufficient merit.