On appeal from Superior Court, Law Division, Somerset County.
Fritz, Kole and Lane. The opinion of the court was delivered by Kole, J.A.D.
[172 NJSuper Page 334] Defendant was indicted for possession of over 25 grams of marijuana and possession thereof with intent to distribute. He moved for suppression of all evidence obtained from the
search of his motor vehicle. After a hearing the judge sustained the seizure of marijuana found in the interior of the vehicle but suppressed the evidence found in the trunk thereof, including 30 pounds of marijuana, a balance scale and cash in the amount of $3,731, as well as statements made by defendant after the search of the trunk.*fn1
We granted the State leave to appeal from the ensuing order. We reverse the order to the extent that it suppresses the evidence seized from the trunk of the car and the statements made by defendant after such search. We hold that such evidence was legally seized and, of course, the later statements were not tainted thereby.
We agree generally with the factual findings made by the judge. They are sustained by sufficient credible evidence. However, we are compelled to make independent supplemental findings based on the record in order to give a more complete background of the facts upon which we predicate our determination.
On October 3, 1978, at about 4:20 p.m., State Trooper Toth stopped defendant's vehicle as it was traveling south on Interstate Highway 287 in Bridgewater Township, since Toth's radar device showed that it was proceeding at 30 miles an hour, considerably less than the normal speed for that highway. The vehicle was traveling in the center lane and, at that rate of speed, was causing other motorists to pass it on the right.
After stopping the vehicle Toth requested that defendant exhibit his driver's license and motor vehicle registration. Defendant complied with the request. Toth noticed that another male was seated on the passenger's side next to defendant, and a female was seated in the back. When defendant opened his window to exhibit his credentials Toth smelled an odor he believed to be burning marijuana. Toth was familiar with the scent of marijuana, both burned and unburned, from attendance at several drug training seminars and courses.
Toth ordered defendant out of the car and informed him that he knew that somebody was smoking marijuana in the car. Defendant first stated that his two passengers, hitchhiking students from France picked up by him near Harrisburg, were smoking it. After Toth directed the students out of the vehicle and began to question them, defendant interrupted Toth's interrogation and stated that defendant alone was smoking marijuana.
Following this admission Toth gave defendant Miranda warnings and subjected the occupants of the car to a protective "pat down." He then returned to defendant's vehicle to determine the area from which the odor of marijuana had emanated. He checked the vehicle's ashtray and found a half-burned marijuana cigarette (roach) approximately one inch long. From his training Toth thought the roach to be unusually large. It was neither burning nor hot when discovered.
In checking the interior further, Toth found a clear plastic bag filled with what was later determined to be approximately 1/2 ounce of marijuana and a package of cigarette wrapping papers. The bag and papers were hidden behind the sun visor on the passenger's side. Toth returned to the three people and advised them that they were under arrest. Defendant asked Toth not to ...