Motion To Suppress Evidence Seized as the Result of an Unlawful Search

State of New Jersey v. Damon Gary

Docket No. A-0590-22

Decided June 9, 2023

Submitted by New Jersey Criminal Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark

In a recent unpublished opinion, the Appellate Court of New Jersey decided the State’s appeal from an order granting defendant’s motion to suppress a handgun recovered during a stop and frisk.

On February 16, 2021 at approximately 2:30 p.m., law enforcement received a call reporting that a named individual (this defendant) was in possession of a firearm. The 911 caller describe to dispatch exactly what defendant was wearing and where he was standing. She also stated who she was. Upon learning this news, officers converged on defendant’s location from different directions. One officer saw a bulge in defendant’s pocket, which corroborated the information given by the 911 caller. Officers ordered the defendant to put his hands up on and on top of his head. Defendant complied and was subsequently patted down. Following a frisk of defendant’s person, officers located a firearm and a magazine on defendant’s right pant leg and a second magazine on defendant’s left pant leg.

Defendant eventually filed a motion to suppress the handgun. Following a testimonial hearing, the trial court found the officer’s testimony credible and consistent with the bodycam footage. However, the trial court granted defendant’s motion. In a short oral decision, the judge articulated that the officer who testified did not initiate the investigative detention because it had occurred before he arrived. The trial court noted that the State failed to present testimony from the officer who commanded defendant to stop and thus there was no evidence regarding the information that officer had to justify the investigative detention. As a result, the trial court concluded that the State did not meet its burden to establish that the stop was lawful. The State appealed.

On appeal, the State contended that the motion court did not consider all of the relevant facts and reasonable inferences when it concluded that the State failed to prove there was reasonable and articulable suspicion to justify the investigative detention. In their brief, the State asserted that that the 911 caller was defendant’s girlfriend. The record reflected the State did not present that fact at the suppression hearing.

Ultimately, the Appellate Court of New Jersey reversed the trial court’s decision and remanded the case, finding that the investigative detention was lawfully initiated based on reasonable suspicion to believe defendant was carrying a handgun. The court indicated that the 911 caller identified herself and provided detailed information to dispatch which was corroborated by officers on scene. The also court noted that the watch commander supervised the incident on CCTV and informed the officers about the bulge in defendant’s pocket. The court was satisfied that multiple officers, including the officer who testified, participated in the stop and that each possessed sufficient awareness of facts to satisfy the reasonable articulable suspicion threshold.

At Hark & Hark, we are experienced attorneys who represent clients in Superior Court for issues like the previously discussed case pertaining motions to suppress evidence seized as the result of an unlawful search. 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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