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State v. Pickett

Decided: September 27, 1982.


Long, J.s.c.


The issue presented here is one of first impression in New Jersey: Can evidence which was seized and ultimately suppressed as a result of a Fourth Amendment violation be considered by the Pretrial Intervention Director in evaluating an individual's application for admission to the program.

The case arose as follows: On September 10, 1981 New Jersey State Police officers on routine patrol on the Turnpike stopped a vehicle for speeding. As a result of what the officers categorized as suspicious or furtive gestures on the part of the three occupants, they were asked to exit the vehicle. A pat-down ensued as a safety measure. Weapons were found in the clothing of each of the three occupants, who were then placed under arrest and handcuffed. The officers proceeded to search the vehicle, including the trunk which yielded sealed plastic packages of suspected marijuana as well as a number of pills. Later at headquarters the officers obtained from John Pickett, the driver of the car, a written consent to the previously executed search of the trunk. Subsequently all three of the occupants, including Pickett, the subject of this appeal, were indicted by the Union County grand jury. Pickett was charged with three offenses: possession of marijuana, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and possession of a knife.

He applied for admission to the Union County Pretrial Intervention Program (PTI) in a timely fashion and was rejected, among other reasons for the seriousness of the charges against him. This rejection was upheld on appeal. Thereafter Pickett filed a motion to suppress the evidence underlying the marijuana charges. The judge agreed that a Fourth Amendment violation had occurred and granted the motion to suppress

because the search of the trunk was unjustified and because the after-executed consent could not validate what had gone before. As a result, the marijuana counts were dismissed, leaving Pickett with a single outstanding charge, possession of a knife. He then reapplied to PTI, arguing that a fourth degree knife offense is not serious enough to serve as a basis for denial of admission to the program and that he should be allowed to enroll. The director disagreed, basing her decision not only on the knife charge but also on the marijuana, notwithstanding its suppression. She reasoned that in evaluating Pickett for PTI, his amenability to rehabilitation can only be measured meaningfully on the basis of all of the true facts underlying his involvement with the criminal justice system. The prosecutor approved the director's decision and this appeal ensued. The director has stipulated that if the suppressed evidence is excluded from consideration, Pickett will be admitted into the program. Thus, the disposition of this legal issue will also finally resolve Pickett's claim of entitlement to PTI, one way or the other.

Although the history of PTI in New Jersey, the policy considerations underpinning it and its procedural workings have been exhaustively outlined in State v. Leonardis, 71 N.J. 85 (1976), a brief overview of the program is necessary here in order to place this issue in perspective. N.J.S.A. 2C:43-12 et seq. and R. 3:28 of our court rules lay out the framework for the operation of supervisory treatment programs through PTI. The express purposes of PTI are to:

(1) Provide applicants on an equal basis, with opportunities to avoid ordinary prosecution by receiving early rehabilitative services or supervision, when such services or supervision can reasonably be expected to deter future criminal behavior by an applicant, and when there is apparent causal connection between the offense charged and the rehabilitative or supervisory need, without which cause both the alleged offense and the need to prosecute might not have occurred; or

(2) Provide an alternative to prosecution for applicants who might be harmed by the imposition of criminal sanctions as presently administered, when such an alternative can be expected to serve as sufficient sanction to deter criminal conduct; or

(3) Provide a mechanism for permitting the least burdensome form of prosecution possible for defendants charged with "victimless" offenses; or

(4) Provide assistance to criminal calendars in order to focus expenditure of criminal justice resources on matters involving serious criminality and severe correctional problems; or

(5) Provide deterrence of future criminal or disorderly behavior by an applicant in a program of supervisory treatment. [ N.J.S.A. 2C:43-12(a)(1)]

In essence, the program has two ends: to divert individuals with high prospects for rehabilitation from the traditional channels of the criminal process and to alleviate the overburdened criminal caseload by resolving appropriate cases without full-blown criminal disposition. State v. Leonardis, supra at 96. Many factors are to be considered by the director in evaluating a defendant's application for admission. Included are:

(1) The nature of the ...

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