State v. Pierre

Docket No. A-0634-19T6

Submitted by New Jersey Criminal Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.

Defendant was arrested on September 19, 2019, and charged with disorderly-persons resisting arrest, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2(a)(1), and fourth-degree criminal mischief, N.J.S.A. 2C:17-3(a)(1). The next day, the State moved for pretrial detention. To establish probable cause at the detention hearing, the State relied only on the affidavit of the investigating detective, who recounted that he and other members of the narcotics bureau were operating in a particular area when they determined to arrest an individual named S.D. At the conclusion of a pretrial detention hearing, the trial judge found the State failed to demonstrate probable cause because a video, which captured some of the moments before and about the time of defendant’s arrest, convinced her that the arresting officer’s affidavit was untrustworthy.

The State appealed the trial court’s dismissal of its motion to detain defendant and its dismissal of the charges against defendant without prejudice. While the officers were conducting the arrest, defendant and another individual began approaching the officers. The detective stated that when they approached the officers, he attempted to grab defendant’s arm to place him under arrest, but that defendant grabbed a cell phone from the other individual and tried to pull away from the detective’s grasp. The detective stated that he brought defendant to the ground to effectuate the arrest and had to put defendant in a compliance hold when defendant tried to get off the ground. The detective also stated that defendant tried to pull away to flee while he was being led to a patrol vehicle.

In response, defendant provided a video captured on cell phone; the video was viewed in camera in the presence of all parties but was not admitted into evidence. Instead, the trial court described what happened on the video on the record and concluded that the detective’s affidavit contained contradictions, misstatements, and omissions.

On appeal, the court vacated and remanded the trial court’s order, ruling that the trial court may have erroneously foreclosed the state from responding to the cell phone video or providing other evidence to support probable cause. The appellate court was concerned with the State’s argument that the judge prevented the prosecutor from arguing about the admissibility or significance of the video or presenting whatever it was that he was barred from expressing. They stated that due process provides all parties with an interest in the proceeding, including the prosecutor, with the right to be heard. The record established that the prosecutor was not given a chance to speak but instead was cut off by the judge each time he attempted to respond to what defendant had offered.

The appellate court rejected that State’s argument that the judge could not make credibility finding contrary to the State’s interests without a hearing at which testimony is taken. The court determined that if the State chooses not to call a witness in seeking a probable cause finding, then it cannot later complain when the judge finds that information insufficient or unworthy of belief. The appellate court stated that simple fairness requires that they vacate the dismissal order and remand the case for further proceedings in conformity with their opinion. If, at the conclusion of those additional proceedings, the court should find probable cause for the charges, then the court may reconsider the denial of the State’s motion to detain defendant.

At Hark & Hark, we represent clients in Superior Court for criminal matters like the present case involving the legality of probable cause determinations to properly effectuate an arrest. We vigorously defend our clients by fighting to uphold their constitutional rights, and ensure law enforcement follow proper procedures to legally make an arrest.

We offer payment plan options to clients financially incapable of providing full payment upfront. If you are facing criminal charges similar to this circumstance, please call us to discuss the matter. At Hark & Hark, we represent clients for any case in any county in New Jersey including Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Mercer, Ocean, and Salem counties.

Criminal Civil Lawyer

Jeffrey Hark is a New Jersey Civil and Criminal Lawyer.

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