There Are Different Levels of Suspicion Necessary for Officers to Effectuate a Traffic Stop, Investigation, Request a Search Warrant, And Search and Seize Property

State v. Muhammad

Appellate Docket No.: A-3017-18

Decided July 15, 2021

Submitted by New Jersey Drug Crime Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.

In a recent unpublished opinion, the Appellate Division of New Jersey reviewed whether a fifteen second delay was a violation of the knock and announce rule to search warrants before breaching entry.

In State v. Muhammad, defendant’s home was searched via a search warrant.  The investigation was initiated in January 2018 after McCalla and another detective met with a confidential informant (CI) who stated that defendant was “distributing quantities of [h]eroin within Middlesex County.” The CI, who had never “provided information to law enforcement in the past,” claimed that he was “aware of [defendant’s] ongoing criminal activity through personal observations and conversations with [defendant].” After the CI confirmed defendant’s identity from a photo, a query of a law enforcement database revealed that defendant had a “criminal history” consisting of nine arrests and six convictions, primarily drug related.

The detectives orchestrated four controlled drug purchases by the CI from defendant. Each of the controlled purchases were monitored and it was determined that defendant was using his residence to house the CDS he was selling.  The detective sought a search warrant based on his years of experience in CDS investigations and the information from the four purchases and the CI’s information.

The police arrived at defendant’s residence with a search warrant. The officer knocked and waited 15 seconds, if not longer, and when no one answered, they forcefully entered the premises utilizing a ram. Defendant was upstairs when the police entered with the TV on.

The police seized drugs as a result of the search warrant and defendant was charged in Middlesex County Indictment No. 18-06-0934 with first-degree maintaining a controlled dangerous substance (CDS) production facility, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-4 (count one); second-degree possession of heroin with intent to distribute, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5(a)(1) and 2C:35- 5(b)(2) (count two); second-degree possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5(a)(1) and 2C:35-5(b)(2) (count three); third-degree possession of Oxycodone with intent to distribute, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5(a)(1) and 2C:35-5(b)(13) (count four); third-degree possession of Xanax with intent to distribute, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5(a)(1) and 2C:35-5(b)(13) (count five); fourthdegree possession with intent to distribute drug paraphernalia, N.J.S.A. 2C:36- 3 (count six); second-degree possession of a firearm, namely, a Hi-Point C9 handgun, while maintaining a CDS production facility and possessing CDS with intent to distribute, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4.1 (count seven); fourth-degree unlawful receipt of handgun ammunition, N.J.S.A. 2C:58-3.3(b) (count eight); three counts of second-degree endangering the welfare of a child, N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4(a) (count nine, ten, and eleven); and third-degree financial facilitation of criminal activity, N.J.S.A. 2C:21-25 (count twelve).

Defendant moved to suppress the evidence seized as an unlawful search and seizure. Specifically, he challenged the probable cause of the search warrant and claimed the police violated the knock and announce rule.

The trial court denied the motion to suppress, finding both probable cause supported by the CI and the four observed transactions with defendant. Also, the court found that under the totality of the circumstances, a 15 second delay was reasonable to prevent defendant from destroying or discarding evidence. defendant entered a negotiated guilty plea to first-degree maintaining a CDS production facility (count one), second-degree possession of CDS with intent to distribute (count two), and second-degree possession of a firearm while committing a CDS offense (count seven) under Indictment No. 18-06-0934, as well as second-degree certain persons not to have weapons under Indictment No. 18-06-0935.

Defendant was sentenced to an eleven-year term of imprisonment with a three and-one-half-year parole disqualifier on count one, a concurrent seven-year term on count two, and a consecutive five-year term with a three-and-one-half-year parole disqualifier on count seven of Indictment No. 18-06-0934. He was sentenced to a concurrent five-year term with a five-year parole disqualifier on Indictment No. 18-06-0935.

Defendant appealed and the Appellate Division affirmed for the reasons provided by the trial court, in agreeing probable cause existed despite the CI’s first encounter with police give the four controlled transactions with the CI. Further the 15 second rule was supported by prior cases.

This case is important to understand the different levels of suspicion necessary for officers to take action. To effectuate a traffic stop or investigation and questioning officers only need a reasonable suspicion that a crime is being committed. To make an arrest, request a search warrant, and search and seize property, officers need probable cause – a higher standard than a reasonable suspicion.

If you or someone you know have been charged with any indictable offense or disorderly persons involving a search and/or questioning of police, contact the experienced attorney at Hark & Hark to ensure you are adequately defended, otherwise you could have negative impacts on your case like the defendant above.

At Hark & Hark, we represent clients in Superior Court for criminal matters like the present case. 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 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 Barnegat Township, Barnegat Light Borough, Bay Head Borough, Beach Haven Borough, Beachwood Borough, Berkeley Township, Brick Township, Eagleswood Township, Harvey Cedars Borough, Island Heights Borough, Jackson Township, Lacey Township, Lakehurst Borough, Lakewood Township, Lavallette Borough, Little Egg Harbor Township, Long Beach Township, Manchester Township, Mantoloking Borough, Ocean Gate Borough, Ocean Township, Pine Beach Borough, Plumsted Township, Point Pleasant Beach Borough, Point Pleasant Borough, Seaside Heights Borough, Seaside Park Borough, Ship Bottom Borough, South Toms River Borough, Surf City Borough, Stafford Township, Toms River Township, and Tuckerton Borough.

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Jeffrey Hark is a New Jersey Civil and Criminal Lawyer.

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