NJ v. Kintaye Crawford: Upheld Denial of Motion to Suppress

State of New Jersey v. Kintaye Crawford

Docket No. A-0480-22

Decided January 16, 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In a recent unpublished opinion, the Appellate Court of New Jersey decided defendant’s appeal from an order denying his motion to suppress physical evidence police seized during a warrantless pat-down of his person following a motor vehicle stop.

On November 12, 2020, at approximately 9:45 p.m., officers were on patrol observing traffic in an unmarked vehicle, when they observed a black Kia sedan without a rear license plate. The vehicle proceeded to make a right-hand turn, but failed to make a complete stop at the stop sign before initiating the turn. Officers began to follow the vehicle and observed the vehicle fail to make a complete stop once more. At this point, the officers activated their overhead emergency lights and conducted a motor vehicle stop.

While speaking to the occupants of the vehicle (defendant was the front seat passenger), both officers on scene detected the odor of raw marijuana emanating from the vehicle. While conversing with the occupants, more officers began to arrive at the scene. By utilizing his flashlight, one of the officers was able to observe in plain view a blue-green vial containing suspected marijuana in the center console area.

Based on these observations, officers ordered both occupants out of the vehicle so they can perform a probable cause search for marijuana. Defendant, who was initially complying with officers’ requests, began to resist. He was handcuffed for officer safety. Officers then conducted a pat-down search of defendant’s person and felt a gun in his pants. Defendant then lunged into the vehicle and was eventually secured and arrested. Officers retrieved a loaded semiautomatic handgun from defendant’s pants. The vehicle was then searched, and officers located marijuana in a container in the center console.

After being indicted for various weapons and CDS offenses, defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence seized as the result of an unlawful warrantless search. The trial court denied defendant’s motion, finding that the stop was lawfully based on the officers’ observations of the motor vehicle violations and held that the officers had probable cause to search the Kia for contraband based on the odor of marijuana and the plain view observation of the suspected vial of marijuana. The court concluded that the search of defendant’s person was a reasonable and lawful pat-down for weapons and that the gun was immediately identified during that frisk. Defendant subsequently moved for reconsideration.

In his motion for reconsideration, defendant contended that the search of his person was not limited to a pat-down for weapons. Defendant asserted the search was a full search, and the video footage an officer reaching into defendant’s pockets, removing items, and placing those items on the vehicle. Defendant further argued that, even if the search was a limited frisk for weapons, there were no articulable facts to support the suspicion that defendant was armed at the time of the search. The court denied the motion, articulating that defendant failed to present any new case law that would demonstrate that the court’s decision was palpably incorrect or irrational. After pleading guilty to unlawful possession of a handgun and receiving a seven-year sentence with forty-two months of parole ineligibility, subject to the “Graves Act,” N.J.S.A. 2C:43-6(c), defendant appealed the denial of his motion to suppress.

On appeal, defendant argued the trial court erred when it determined that the firearm was seized during a lawful pat-down search of defendant’s person. He did not challenge the initial stop of the vehicle the search of the vehicle. At the time this offense occurred, the odor of marijuana provided the police with grounds to remove the passengers from a vehicle and search the passenger compartment of the car.

Ultimately, the Appellate Court determined that the trial court properly denied defendant’s motion to suppress and affirmed their ruling. The court noted that the officers were justified in handcuffing the defendant for officer safety because when he exited the vehicle, he grabbed his waistband, was pulling away from the officers, and was not cooperative in placing his hands on the car. The court opined that the officers were also justified in patting down defendant’s person because the totality of circumstances independently supported a reasonable suspicion for the pat-down, including defendant reaching for his waistband, flailing his hands, and pulling away from the officers.

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