On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Monmouth County.
Petrella, Havey and Stern. The opinion of the court was delivered by Stern, J.A.D.
Defendant was charged with possession of cocaine, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10.*fn1 After he prevailed on a motion to suppress, we granted leave to appeal.
The single issue presented is whether cocaine found in a jewelry box in defendant's bedroom must be suppressed. The cocaine was found during a burglary investigation which was conducted by police with defendant's consent. The motion judge suppressed the cocaine because defendant did not expressly consent to a search of the jewelry box. We find that no specific consent was necessary before the police could look into the box, and we reverse the suppression.
Detective Corporal Bernard Sullivan of the Wall Township Police Department was the only witness on the motion. He testified that on July 2, 1989 he, along with other officers, responded to "the call of a burglary in process." He indicated that upon arriving he "immediately came in contact with the defendant and his wife" who were "standing on the front lawn of the address" from which the call for help was placed. According to Sullivan, defendant advised him "that he had called in reference to a burglary in his home, which was on Buchanan Street," and that he and his wife had been chased "out of the home and that they had to run to" their present location. Sullivan testified that defendant appeared "very nervous" and had "a trickle of blood stringing from his nostril. He
had extremely bloodshot eyes [and was] talking in a very rapid and at times irrational manner." Defendant was described by Sullivan as
Sullivan endeavored to "calm [defendant] down, which was more or less impossible," but that
[after] quite an amount of questioning, [defendant] advised that he and his wife had been in their home at 2901 Buchanan Street when burglars had entered the home and had been in the bedroom of the home.
He advised that the burglars had chased him and his wife from the home. And that upon getting out of the house, the burglars were still inside and that he and his wife had run as fast as they could and then stopped at this house [where they were] on Monmouth Boulevard.
He advised . . . that they had -- the burglars had been in the bedroom. And they had completed destroyed his wife's dresser in the master bedroom.
Sullivan was also advised by the owner of the home to which he had responded that she did not know the Bouds but "[she] advised that two basically hysterical people had come to her front door, knocking on the front door, banging on the front door, asking her to call the police, at which there was a burglary, at which point she did, in fact, call the police."
Sullivan "informed the defendant that we as police officers would like to go back to the home, check out the area and the home to see if any intrusion, any burglars were still present and if any crime had been committed, basically looking for suspects and evidence of crime." According to Sullivan, "Mr. Boud responded that he was very afraid to go back into the house . . . as he was afraid that someone might be there in the house, and asked us to go back to the house, check it out and make sure that everything was okay and nobody was still inside." Sullivan testified that he "advised [defendant] that we as a police officer would like to go investigate. And he advised, yes, I'm afraid. Please to go back and make sure everything's okay." The officer then proceeded to the Boud's home without
the Bouds who were "afraid to go back until we checked it out."
An external search of the premises was conducted, and the officers observed no signs of forced entry. Thereafter the officers went through the "unsecured door on the west side of the house . . . and began to make an interior check" for "any suspects or evidence of a crime." The officers found the kitchen and living room to be "fairly neat and clean." They then went into the master bedroom which was off the living room, as this was "the room that the defendant had advised is where the damage had been done to his wife's dresser." After making sure "[there] was no one in the room" the officers turned on the light and noticed that "several drawers ...