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State in Interest of A.S.

Decided: July 18, 1988.

STATE OF NEW JERSEY IN THE INTEREST OF A.S., A JUVENILE


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Passaic County.

J. H. Coleman and Stern. J. H. Coleman, P.J.A.D.

Coleman

We granted the State leave to appeal from an order suppressing evidence obtained without warnings required by Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 444, 86 S. Ct. 1602, 1612, 16 L. Ed. 2d 694, 707 (1966). We now reverse.

I

On March 25, 1987 at 11:24 a.m. two Paterson Police Officers, Jeffrey Sims and C. Swan, were patrolling in a squad car. A passing motorist informed the officers he observed a person fire a handgun a couple of minutes earlier and place it into the waistband of his pants. He described the person and said he was walking south on East 18th Street towards 17th Avenue. Within two minutes the police officers located the suspect standing in front of 743 East 18th Street. The suspect was identified as A.W.

The police officers approached A.W. and asked if he had a gun. A.W. replied that he did not. A pat down search of A.W. did not uncover a gun, but Officer Sims retrieved five live rounds of .32 caliber ammunition from his person. Two spent casings were also recovered from the area where A.W. was standing. A.W. told the officers he had given the gun to a friend named "Alfredo" who lived on Market Street in Paterson.

A.W. accompanied the officers in the patrol car to Market Street to show them where his friend lived.

After the two officers and A.W. had driven one and one-half blocks from the point where A.W. was located, A.W. pointed out "Alfredo" who was walking in the vicinity of the building in which he resided. "Alfredo" was identified as A.S., the respondent herein. When the patrol car was approximately 25 feet away from A.S., he turned around and began running away from the police officers. He ran into the apartment building where he resided. Officer Sims ran into the building and apprehended A.S. on a landing between the first and second floors.

A.S. was ordered to place his hands against the wall; he was patted-down but the gun was not found. The State has conceded that at the time of this search, A.S. was under arrest even though he was not so advised. Without giving Miranda warnings to A.S., the officers asked him what he did with the gun and he said he did not have a gun. After Officer Sims informed A.S. that A.W. had reported he gave the gun to A.S., A.S. told the officer where the gun was located. In addition to telling the policeman the gun's location, A.S. escorted him to the gun which was located in an alleyway behind 525 Market Street. The gun was stashed behind an opening in the siding of a house which was about 50 feet down the alleyway. The gun was 6 to 12 inches from the ground. This was a residential neighborhood. When the .32 caliber handgun was retrieved, it was loaded with five rounds of ammunition. A.S. was ultimately charged with delinquency for unlawfully possessing the handgun contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5b.

A.S. filed a motion to suppress statements made by him and to suppress the handgun. A hearing on the motion was conducted on February 1, 1988. The judge concluded that this case did not fall within the public safety exception to Miranda warning requirements articulated in New York v. Quarles, 467 U.S. 649, 104 S. Ct. 2626, 81 L. Ed. 2d 550 (1984). He stated:

I don't see the exigencies, the emergent aspect that is set forth in the [Quarles] case, I don't see the outright danger to public safety although ultimately the gun may have been found in a narrow alleyway in a location which may or may not have exposed that gun to the public, I'm not even concerned with that aspect of it, I'm thinking about the frame of mind of the police officers who conducted the investigation as to whether or not they were justified in not giving the juvenile defendant his Miranda warnings and I do not find from the testimony frankly that the failure to provide the Miranda Warnings was justified under the circumstances derived [sic] the course of the State's case. As pointed out the officer or officers presumably acted in good faith in the sense that they were trying to locate the gun based upon the information that was provided but the exigencies were not present as set forth in the [Quarles] case which should have prevented these officers from providing this juvenile with his Miranda Warnings. Why they didn't do that under the circumstances described I do not understand and thereafter as a result of the information provided the gun in question was located and then the question boils down to whether or not [A.S.'s] rights were violated in view of the fact that he was not afforded the Miranda Warnings and whether or not that constitutes an exception to the hear -- I'm sorry the Miranda case and in reading the language in the [Quarles] case very carefully and applying those factual circumstances in the instant case I do not find that the resultant search which came about in the location of the weapon ...


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