State v. Brown – A Summary

As a result of an investigation into several robberies and thefts, the defendant was implicated in those crimes. On January 1, 2005, five complaints were prepared against the defendant. Four of them sought authorization to arrest the defendant for various offenses and the fifth complaint charged him with resisting arrest and listed the address of his girlfriend. At the time of the defendant’s arrest, no judicial officer had reviewed the complaints or authorized the defendant’s arrest. That evening, officers went to the girlfriend’s apartment to arrest the defendant and when the police knocked, she opened the door and the defendant fled through a window onto an adjacent roof. Following a twenty-minute standoff, police convinced the defendant to come down and they then arrested him. The next day the defendant had his Miranda rights read to him and he initialed, signed a waiver form and then made incriminating statements. A grand jury indicted the defendant and others for multiple counts of armed robbery and numerous other offenses. The defendant’s motion to suppress his statements, which argued 1) that his arrest was unlawful because the warrants were not authorized until after the arrest , 2) that his subsequent statements were thus inadmissible, and 3) that he did not waive his Miranda rights, was denied.

The New Jersey Supreme Court held that at the time the defendant fled through a window onto a roof next door, the police had engaged in no misconduct; thus, there was no seizure of any sort in the apartment. When the police arrested the defendant after he came down from the roof, they did not need an arrest warrant because they had probable cause to arrest him in a public place (1) for armed robbery committed outside their presence and (2) for resisting arrest, which they observed. Arrest warrants and warrantless arrests in public must be supported by probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed and the person sought to be arrested committed the offense. The statements of The defendant’s co-defendants implicating him in armed robberies meet that test. The parties do not dispute the existence of probable cause. They focus on whether the arrest was lawful in light of the defective arrest warrants. Without a warrant, the State must prove the overall reasonableness of an arrest.

During an ongoing investigation, police did not need a warrant to knock on the door of the defendant’s girlfriend’s apartment. The defendant fled out the window immediately upon learning of the police presence. The defective warrants are irrelevant here. By moving to a public place, the defendant transformed the situation from an arrest in a private apartment, where police would need a warrant, to the public arena, where the police could arrest him without a warrant based on probable cause that he had committed armed robbery. Also, after jumping onto a roof, the defendant created a police standoff in a public place, posing a risk to officers and the public. The police did not need a warrant to arrest for resisting. Substantial, credible evidence in the record supports the finding that the defendant voluntarily waived his Miranda rights. Thus, the statements he made while in police custody were admissible at trial.

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