State’s Appeal of An Order Granting Defendant’s Motion to Suppress Physical Evidence Seized from His Person Without a Warrant
Docket No. A-2111-21
Decided October 5, 2022
Submitted by New Jersey Criminal Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark
In a recent unpublished opinion, the Appellate Court of New Jersey decided the State’s appeal of an order granting defendant’s motion to suppress physical evidence seized from his person without a warrant.
On September 25, 2019, officers received information provided from an anonymous tip that a man had a handgun in the vicinity of Orient Ave. and Martin Luther King Dr. The officers were further informed that the man with the handgun was the same person who had jumped on a windshield during an aggravated assault one week prior. One of the officers was familiar with the man for several years and knew him to be the defendant. As the officers were en route to their location, they were advised by a concerned citizen that the man with the handgun was wearing dark clothing and sitting on a lawn chair on the sidewalk on the south side of Orient Ave. This specific area generated a lot of police calls and was considered to be a high crime area.
After arriving on scene, the officer familiar with the defendant immediately recognized him to be the man sitting in the lawn chair surrounded by multiple individuals. When the officers approached the defendant, the defendant noticed him and dropped his hand to his waistband. At trial, the officer testified that given the tip that defendant was armed with a handgun, the reputation of the area, and defendant’s movements, he feared for his safety and the safety of the public. Officers subsequently took the defendant down to the ground, and located a handgun and CDS heroin from his person as they were patting him down.
Defendant moved to suppress the evidence seized without a warrant, arguing that the call officers received was from a known confidential informant and not an anonymous concerned citizen. Defendant also argued that the information’s description was vague as well. The State contended that once the officer was told the person with the handgun was the same person involved in the previous windshield incident, he immediately knew that it was the defendant. Thus, due to that connection, the anonymous tip was very specific.
The trial court granted the defendant’s motion, and reasoned after viewing video footage of the incident that and found that the officers had reasonable suspicion to conduct a Terry stop and frisk but officers did not use the least restrictive means to frisk defendant since he was physically thrown to the ground before one of the officers removed the handgun from his waistband and the nature of the pat down was “unreasonable.” The State subsequently appealed.
On appeal, the Appellate Court reversed and remanded the case for trial. The court stated that there was an objectively reasonable belief that defendant was armed with a handgun and was reaching for it while the officers were at close range. Additionally, the court further articulated that once the defendant began reaching for his waistband, the situation immediately evolved from the need to merely frisk defendant to detect the presence of a weapon to preventing defendant from grabbing and using the handgun that the officers reasonably believed he possessed. Therefore, the officers were justified in taking further steps to protect their safety and the other people present, particularly the three individuals a few feet away from defendant.
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 physical evidence seized 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.
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