NJ Appellate Court Upholds DWI Evidence from Warrantless Vehicle Stop

State of New Jersey v. William Davenport

Docket No. A-3606-22

Decided May 21, 2024

Submitted by New Jersey Criminal Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark

In a recent unpublished opinion, the Appellate Court of New Jersey decided defendant’s appeal from a Law Division order, which denied his motion to suppress evidence obtained after the warrantless stop of his motor vehicle by law enforcement.

On November 2, 2020, an individual called 911 to advise law enforcement that a guy in a big silver truck was arguing with his girlfriend or wife. The caller further advised that the argument was loud and the silver pickup truck was circling and going into the parking lot and peeling out around the complex. The caller requested officers come to the scene, which was across the street from the caller’s location. Officers were then dispatched to respond to the location for a report of a silver pickup truck driving erratically. Officers were not given any information concerning the 911 caller but were aware the caller lived across the street. At the motion to suppress evidence, the officer testified that he did not observe any erratic driving by defendant that he was near the location to investigate erratic driving and “a possible domestic.”

Defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence, arguing that there was no probable cause or other valid legal reason to permit the stop of his vehicle and all evidence of the DWI attained after the stop was inadmissible. After the motion to suppress hearing, the municipal court judge denied defendant’s motion, primarily relying on the community caretaking exception for the warrantless stop and search. Defendant than pled guilty to DWI under N.J.S.A. 39:4-50 and sentenced as a second offender. Defendant subsequently appealed to the Law Division.

After considering the written and oral arguments of counsel, the trial court judge denied defendant’s appeal in a written opinion. The trial judge relied on the community caretaking exception to the warrant exception and probable cause requirements required to stop a motor vehicle in- reaching its decision. Defendant appealed once again.

On appeal to the Appellate Division, defendant contended that no probable cause or legal reason existed to stop his vehicle and all evidence obtained in this matter must be suppressed as a result. Ultimately, the Appellate Division affirmed the trial court’s decision to deny defendant’s motion to suppress evidence. The Appellate Court relied on its decision in State v. Golotta, 178 N.J. 205 (2003), in which the court addressed a DWI conviction of a driver based on information obtained from a 911 caller which the Court concluded created reasonable suspicion to support an investigatory stop. The court found that the 911 caller provided sufficient reliable, contemporaneous information under Golotta describing (1) the erratic driving of a silver pickup truck at around midnight on or near Shady Lane and that (2) a loud argument was occurring between the driver and his wife or girlfriend. Thus, the stop of defendant’s vehicle was based on sufficient reasonable suspicion that motor vehicle violations may have occurred based on the report of defendant’s erratic driving and therefore, the stop of defendant’s motor vehicle was an appropriate investigatory stop. Accordingly, the trial court’s denial of defendant’s motion to suppress evidence obtained after the motor vehicle stop, ultimately resulting in defendant’s guilty plea and conviction for DWI, was proper.

At Hark & Hark, we are experienced attorneys who represent clients in Superior Court for issues like the previously discussed case pertaining to motions to suppress evidence obtained unlawfully without a warrant. 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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