New Jersey Criminal Lawyer – Appellate Opinions – State v. Lewis

State v. Lewis, 411 N.J. Super. 483 (App. Div. 2010)

The stop of defendant’s van occurred at night in a Plainfield neighborhood known for high crime and drug sales. As in Pena-Flores, the police had no reason to anticipate in advance that defendants would be involved in drug activity because the targets of their investigation were Courtney and Porter, not defendants. Moreover, the stop of defendant’s car occurred at a location where it could be readily observed by persons in the neighborhood, such as the five or six people who congregated in the area after the stop. If they drove by, the occupants of the Camry who apparently had purchased drugs from defendants also would have been likely to observe the van and assume that it contained drugs. Therefore, it cannot be said in this case, as in Fuller, that “[t]here is nothing in the record to suggest that [defendants] had cohorts who might have come on the scene.”

Moreover, although a second police car arrived on the scene after the stop, the search of the car and leather case had already been completed before then. Furthermore, it is unclear whether the officers in the second police car would have been available to detain defendants while Detectives Black and Staten applied for a warrant, because the officers involved in the Courtney-Porter investigation were responsible for searching four different residences, a car, and the persons of Courtney and Porter, and according to Detective Black, “were stretched out kind of thin.”

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