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State v. Cross

Decided: December 14, 1978.

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
BENJAMIN CROSS AND GERMAN TIMMONS, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Somerset County.

Lora, Michels and Larner. The opinion of the court was delivered by Lora, P.J.A.D.

Lora

Pursuant to leave granted, the State appeals from orders of the Law Division granting defendants' motions to suppress evidence seized without a warrant from the glove compartment of the automobile in which defendants were riding.

On September 6, 1976 at about 6:30 P.M. Trooper Richard Toth of the New Jersey State Police made a motor vehicle stop of a white Cadillac, occasioned by the vehicle's speeding

through a radar check point. The trooper proceeded to the driver's side of the Cadillac, advised Timmons as to why he had stopped him and requested Timmons to produce his license and registration. Timmons took out a wallet and handed Toth a Pennsylvania driver's license. Cross, the sole passenger in the vehicle, reached into one of his rear pockets and pulled out a Pennsylvania registration. Toth checked both documents and thought them to be correct and valid.

Returning to his patrol car, Toth began to write a traffic summons for speeding and while doing so radioed for an investigative check (NJIC) on the registration of the white Cadillac. Within a few minutes Toth received a radio response that the vehicle was entered as a stolen motor vehicle by the Camden Police Department. He was advised to remain in his patrol car until a backup unit could get there. While awaiting the arrival of his backup Toth received another radio message, informing him that the Camden Police Department had been contacted after his initial inquiry and had confirmed that the Cadillac was still wanted as a stolen vehicle.

Just about that time Toth's backup, Trooper Legg, arrived. With their guns drawn, both officers approached the Cadillac, Toth on the driver's side, Legg on the passenger side. Both defendants were removed from the Cadillac, handcuffed, informed they were under arrest for possession of a stolen motor vehicle, and advised of their rights pursuant to Miranda v. Arizona , 384 U.S. 486, 86 S. Ct. 1602, 16 L. Ed. 2d 694 (1964).

At this point defendant Cross became excited and insisted that he owned the vehicle, that he had reported it stolen, but it had since been returned to him, prompting Toth to search for personal identification of both defendants. With the exception of $1,600 in small bills in two top shirt pockets, defendant Cross had no other items on his person. Defendant Timmons' wallet was empty, Toth earlier having obtained his driver's license.

Since "in his mind it was still a stolen vehicle" and defendants had no identification on them other than "a wallet with no license and the other man, the registration was lying loose in his pocket," Toth was not sure that they were the men they said they were.

Searching for further identification of the two defendants, Toth proceeded to the Cadillac and opened the glove compartment, in which he found a box of tissues and a large black eyeglass container, the largest he had ever seen. Upon opening the eyeglass container, the trooper found four yellow capsules, one white and one gray capsule, and two orange tablets. No glasses were in the container.

Upon returning to the police station Toth telephoned the Camden Police Department informing them of Cross' insistence that the Cadillac was owned by him and requesting the Camden police to check the status of the vehicle more carefully. The Camden police then advised the trooper that the vehicle had been reported as stolen by a Mr. Cross, but that it had been returned to Cross, the Camden police saying, according to Toth, that "they forgot to cancel their teletype in the ...


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