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City of New Brunswick v. Speights

February 14, 1978


Rockoff, J.c.c.


[157 NJSuper Page 11] This opinion is addressed to a motion to suppress evidence filed by Ronald Speights pursuant to R. 3:5-7. Speights seeks to have certain evidence declared inadmissible at an anticipated Department of Civil Service

disciplinary action in which Speights can be sanctioned by permanent removal from his position as a police officer with the City of New Brunswick as well as loss of back pay from the date of his initial suspension, December 19, 1975. This motion reveals a series of novel questions of constitutional dimension which require discussion and disposition.

Speights has previously been convicted in a federal court criminal proceeding involving the charge of illegal possession of an unregistered sawed-off shotgun. On appeal, United States v. Speights , 557 F.2d 362 (3 Cir. 1977), the court reversed defendant's conviction and remanded, holding in part that criminal evidence (i.e. , the shotgun) was improperly admitted at the trial in violation of defendant's Fourth Amendment rights, and that the Federal District Court's denial of defendant's motion to suppress was reversible error.

Subsequent to the termination of the aforementioned criminal proceeding Speights received notice of the presently pending disciplinary hearing pursuant to N.J.S.A. 11:22-38 and Rule 4:1-16.8 of the Civil Service Rules of the New Jersey Administrative Code. Speights is therein charged with threatening to take a life (N.J.S.A. 2A:113-8) breaking and entering with an intention to steal (N.J.S.A. 2A:194-1), larceny over $500 (N.J.S.A. 2A:119-2) and illegal possession of a sawed-off shotgun (N.J.S.A. 2A:151-16). It is clear from the record that no administrative determination has been made and no hearing has yet been conducted.

Petitioner argues that the penal nature of the administrative proceeding requires the Middlesex County Court, Criminal Division, to hear this motion. He further argues that since the evidence to be required at the hearing is the same evidence suppressed by the federal court in the prior criminal action, this evidence must be suppressed by this court and its use at the hearing barred to assure him the continuing protection of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Federal Constitution as made applicable to the states by the litany of cases commencing with Mapp v.

Ohio , 367 U.S. 643, 81 S. Ct. 1684, 6 L. Ed. 2d 1081 (1961).

In support of his arguments Speights points to the language of R. 3:5-7 of our Rules of Courts:

He thus asserts that this court is the only forum in which his arguments for suppression may be heard because of the "penal" consequences of the disciplinary hearing.

Before resolving the issue of whether petitioner's arguments misconstrue the scope of the Rules and the nature of the proceeding in which a motion to suppress may properly be brought, this court is compelled to address itself to the novel question raised herein, to wit: Does the exclusionary rule of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments apply to an administrative hearing of this type? Also of novel import in New Jersey is the question of whether evidence is admissible at a state civil-administrative hearing when the same evidence was excluded in a prior federal criminal proceeding.

The applicability of the exclusionary rule to civil proceedings has evoked enormous controversy. See Annotation, 5 A.L.R. 3d 670. The controversy is in part due to the relaxed rules of evidence applicable to administrative proceedings in general, as well as the paucity of cases dealing with the issue. 2 Am. Jur. 2d, Administrative Law , § 380 (1962), McCormick, Evidence , § 168 at p. 370-71 (1972). Nevertheless, it is apparent that those jurisdictions which have been faced with this question have based their decisions on two factors warranting analysis herein: (1) the deterrent policy of the exclusionary rule and (2) the nature of the penalty to be imposed.

The guarantees against unreasonable searches and seizures embodied in the Fourth Amendment exclusionary rule are applicable to law enforcement and government officials seeking to enforce criminal statutes. Mapp v. Ohio, supra. The Supreme Court has established that the prime purpose of the exclusionary rule is to deter unlawful governmental conduct. United States v. Calandra , 414 U.S. 338, 94 S. Ct. 613, 38 L. Ed. 2d 561 (1974). See also, United States v. Peltier , 422 U.S. 531, 95 S. Ct. 2313, 45 L. Ed. 2d 374 (1975). Although it has been held that state courts can impose higher standards of conduct in preserving the guarantees of the rule by way of interpretation of state constitutions, Cooper v. California , 386 U.S. 58, 87 S. Ct. 788, 17 L. Ed. 2d 730 (1967); State v. Johnson , 68 N.J. 349 (1975), the policy of the rule as enumerated by the Supreme Court is no different under state law. State v. DeSimone , 60 N.J. 319 (1972); State v. Cymerman , 135 N.J. Super. 591 (Law Div. 1975); State v. Droutman , 143 N.J. Super. 322 (Law Div. 1976).

The rule is calculated to prevent, not to repair. Its purpose is to deter -- to compel respect for the constitutional guaranty in the only effectively available way -- by removing the incentive to disregard it. [ Elkins v. United States , 364 U.S. 206, 217, 80 S. Ct. 1437, 1444, 4 L. Ed. 2d 1669 (1960)]

An extension of the policy of the exclusionary rule to the realm of a civil proceeding no doubt derives from the seminal case of Boyd v. United States , 116 U.S. 616, 6 S. Ct. 524, 29 L. Ed. 746 (1886), where the rule was held applicable to a civil forfeiture of property. However, evolution of the rule has been one of limitation rather than growth.

Despite its broad deterrent purpose, the exclusionary rule has never been interpreted to proscribe the use of illegally seized evidence in all proceedings or against all persons. As with any remedial device, the application of the rule has been restricted to those areas where its remedial objectives are thought most efficaciously served * * * [ Calandra, supra , 414 U.S. at 348, 94 S. Ct. at 620]

It is therefore necessary, in line with the above authority, to analyze whether the policy of the exclusionary rule will be efficaciously served by its application to a civil disciplinary hearing. The problem in the instant matter becomes more complex because the evidence in question herein was not seized for the immediate scrutiny of the administrative tribunal or by administrative agents. See Camara v. Municipal Court , 387 U.S. 523, 87 S. Ct. 1727, 18 L. Ed. 2d 930 (1967). Rather, ...

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