On appeal from Superior Court, Law Division, Monmouth County.
J.h. Coleman, Dreier and Landau. The opinion of the court was delivered by Landau, J.A.D.
This matter comes before us on leave granted to the State to contest an interlocutory order which suppressed evidence uncovered incident to a traffic stop of a car operated by defendant-respondent Sylvester Conquest.
On September 7, 1989 at approximately 6:00 p.m., Trooper Michael McDonnell was on patrol in Asbury Park, New Jersey, in the area of Washington and Ridge Avenues. At that time he noted a 1988 Chevrolet bearing New Jersey registration going west on Washington Avenue. The vehicle made a right turn from Washington Avenue to Ridge Avenue without making a complete stop and without using its directional signals. That
intersection is governed by a stop sign for vehicles travelling on Washington Avenue.
After observing the traffic violations, Trooper McDonnell followed the vehicle a short distance and activated his overhead lights. The vehicle turned left from Ridge Avenue to Monroe Avenue, left again from Monroe to Myrtle Avenue and pulled into a driveway at 516 Myrtle Avenue. That driveway served what was later determined to be the home of the son of Sharon Ivory, Conquest's passenger. Trooper McDonnell estimated that the entire pursuit of the vehicle took thirty seconds, noting that the distance travelled was very short.
As the vehicle stopped, the driver, later identified as Conquest, immediately exited and approached Trooper McDonnell's patrol car. McDonnell asked Conquest for his driving credentials. He noted that Conquest was "very nervous, and his hands were shaking, and he wanted to know why he was being stopped." While Conquest was producing his credentials, McDonnell observed the passenger in the front seat bend out of sight for approximately three seconds towards the driver's side of the vehicle. When this occurred, the trooper promptly made a safety pat down of Conquest, with negative results. He then approached the vehicle and ordered Ivory to exit, opening the passenger door as he did so. She complied with McDonnell's order, and identified herself. When McDonnell ordered her out of the vehicle he saw a "white vial with suspected C.D.S. on the floor." He stated that the vial was "just below where her feet would be if she was sitting straight up." He described it as a clear glass vial with a white substance, approximately an inch and a half long, "a common crack vial."
McDonnell conducted a safety pat down of Ivory, handcuffed both occupants and placed them under arrest. He then searched the vehicle, but found nothing else.
Conquest was indicted for possession of C.D.S. under N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10a(1) and N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10. The trial judge granted a defense motion to suppress evidence of the crack vial,
interpreting our opinion in State v. Woodson, 236 N.J. Super. 537, 566 A.2d 550 (App.Div.1989), to hold that McDonnell had an insufficient basis to order Sharon Ivory from the vehicle or to open the passenger door. Based on that analysis, he suppressed evidence of the crack vial observed on the car floor as Ivory exited. We disagree and reverse.
In State v. Lipski, 238 N.J. Super. 100, 105, 569 A.2d 272 (App.Div.1990), cited in State v. Lund, 119 N.J. 35, 49, 573 A.2d 1376 (1990), we recognized the importance of considering the particular circumstances, notably the number of occupants compared to the number of officers on the scene, in evaluating the reasonableness of protective measures taken by an officer during a valid motor vehicle stop. Here, we are not called upon to determine whether the ...