The Plain View and Exigent Circumstance Exceptions to The Warrant Requirement





Submitted by New Jersey Criminal Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark

Here at Hark&Hark we have already written about State v. Phillips, in 2019. We stay up to date on this June 14, 2021, appellate decision. See  State v. Phillips | New Jersey Criminal Civil Lawyer.

The facts are as follows: Police received complaints about drug dealing occurring at the Rodeway Inn, and the hotel manager told police that there had been heavy foot traffic in and out of Room 107. The police conducted surveillance and observed a male leave that room and walk to the corner of Pacific Avenue, where he met with a female. The police observed what they believed to be a hand-to-hand transaction, arrested the female, and found an illicit drug in her possession. The police then stopped the male and arrested him for drug distribution. He stated to the police that he was staying in Room 107 at the hotel.

Next, two police officers went to Room 107 to continue the investigation. They knocked on the door and announced their identities as police officers. The defendant proceeded to open the door about “80 percent” – enough to allow the officers to see into the room. The officers testified to immediately detecting the “extremely overpowering smell of burnt marijuana,” and while still in the hallway outside the room, observed what appeared to be a hand-rolled marijuana cigar on the edge of the bed.

Subsequently, Detective Berardis entered the room to place the defendant under arrest for marijuana possession and use, but as soon as he crossed the threshold into the room, the detective observed a large suitcase which was open and located in between the bed and the wall adjacent to the door. The officer then observed a sandwich bag filled with rice (which the officer knew from training and experience drug dealers use to preserve heroin), and multiple bags of suspected heroin and a digital scale. After making the arrest, the detectives secured the marijuana cigar, the bag of rice, the bags of suspected heroin, and the scale. They did not search the room for further evidence.

This is a third appeal related to the motion to suppress evidence. The Trial Court, 2 after taking additional testimony granted Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence found after a warrantless search. Specifically, the State argued the seizure of the suppressed evidence was “authorized under the plain view and exigent circumstance exceptions to the warrant requirement.” The issues were The Trial Court recounting of testimony from the suppression hearing and the Court’s specific findings there were no exigent circumstances when the officers arrested the defendant in his room. There was no reason for any offices to enter the room and “the State has not proven by a preponderance of the evidence that there were exigent circumstances.”

On appeal, the Appellate Court must accept the trial court’s factual findings that are supported by sufficient credible evidence. The Appellate Court concluded the trial court’s latest determination was legally correct and it was the State’s burden to establish it was necessary to enter defendant’s room based on exigent circumstances. Appellate Court affirms the motion to suppress evidence.

Criminal Civil Lawyer

Jeffrey Hark is a New Jersey Civil and Criminal Lawyer.

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