The Supreme Court of New Jersey recently suppressed evidence of a gun case where officers unlawfully searched the defendant at the time of his arrest. On February 7, 2014, Neptune Police officers were dispatched to a motel to respond to a noise complaint. When officers arrived, they located the room where the noise was coming from and the renter of the room allowed to enter. Once officers advised the renter of the room for the reason they were investigating, the renter of the room lowered the volume of music that was playing and police did not issue a noise complaint.
Approximately ten people were in the motel room when police arrived. One of them was the defendant in this case. After the renter of the room complied with the officer’s order to turn down the music, officers detained everyone in the room and ran warrant-checks on each individual. The people in the room were told that they were not allowed to leave until the warrant checks were complete.
When officers ran the defendant’s information, they discovered that the defendant had an open warrant for his arrest. The police then arrested the defendant and searched him. This search uncovered a handgun. The defendant was then charged with weapons offenses.
Motions to suppress evidence at the trial and Appellate level were denied. The Supreme Court reversed, and suppressed evidence. First, the Supreme Court held that the detention and warrant check of the defendant was unlawful. The Court ruled that once the music volume was lowered and the officer decided not to issue a summons to the renter of the room, the officers had no reasonable basis to detain the other occupants of the room.
Secondly, the Court held that the search of the defendant’s person was also unlawful. Evidence that is obtained from an illegal search by the police is considered “fruit of the poisonous tree”. In other words, if the police use less than legal conduct to get evidence, that evidence cannot be used in court. Thus, the Supreme Court reversed the rulings from the trial and Appellate Courts and suppressed the evidence.
Thomas DeMarco & Associates, LLC is an experienced Camden County criminal defense law firm located in Mt. Ephraim, New Jersey. Our firm handles all criminal matters and is ready to fight for your rights. Contact us to discuss your matter.