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State v. Patterson

Decided: January 22, 1993.

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CHARLES PATTERSON AND RONALD JOHNSON, DEFENDANTS



O'Hagan, J.s.c.

O'hagan

The defendants, Charles Patterson and Ronald Johnson, have filed motions to suppress evidence of controlled dangerous substances found by the Red Bank Police Department on their persons and within their possession on February 14, 1992. This court, after a hearing, grants the defendants' motion.

I. Facts

In its barest form, the evidence reveals that two young men hired a taxi cab to drive them from the Red Bank train station to Asbury Park. Sergent Joseph Hoffman of the Red Bank Police Department, directed Patrolman Elliot Ramos, who was driving a marked car in the area, to effect a stop of the cab. Subsequent to the radio transmission by Hoffman, Ramos observed the two passengers in cab # 433 of the Yellow Cab Company look back at him and then turn around and move towards each other, bending their heads down. Once the taxi cab was pulled over, the actions of the two defendants gave a legal basis for the police to effect a

search which subsequently revealed enough controlled dangerous substances to support second degree drug charges against each.

The threshold issue that will be resolved is whether a sufficient legal basis existed to stop the taxi cab. In this regard, Hoffman, over the course of three years, developed a profile associated with typical drug dealers utilizing the Red Bank train station to transport controlled dangerous substances. Based on this profile, defendants' vehicle was stopped. An ancillary issue is whether the movement observed by Ramos, coupled with the drug profile developed by Hoffman, elevated police suspicion to a level sufficient to provide a legal basis for the traffic stop.

II. The Profile

Hoffman, of the Red Bank Police Department, testified in a most credible fashion that the Red Bank Police Department, in cooperation with other law enforcement agencies in the Shore area, have reasonably concluded that drug dealers extensively use mass transit in their drug distribution schemes. In this respect he established that narcotics or illegal controlled dangerous substances are available to dealers in fairly large quantities if purchased in New York City. After such purchase, the drugs are distributed in the Monmouth County area at significant profit. Thus, drug dealers or their runners will journey to New York City to buy drugs and then travel back to Monmouth County to sell them. Mass transit is used in this operation, first of all because such transportation goes directly to New York City. Second, the persons involved do not risk forfeiture of their cars if stopped and charged by the police. See, Forfeiture, N.J.S.A. 2C:64-1 to -9. Third, the actors in this trade apparently believe that the police in the municipalities where they sell drugs are familiar with their cars; thus, the participants conclude that there is an increased likelihood of apprehension and arrest by the police if they use private passenger vehicles. Fourth, frequently, large numbers of participants are involved in this pattern, which thereby makes the use of private passenger vehicles more difficult. The Red Bank Police Department, along with police officers in other shore towns

through which the trains and New York buses pass, have become familiar with this practice of using mass transit to transport drugs to their ultimate destinations in Monmouth County.

The police, using appropriate investigative techniques, have gathered this information by means of questioning those involved in the illicit drug trade and by surveillance operations conducted at the train stations in Red Bank, Long Branch and Asbury Park. Based upon this information, the police in the towns involved began patrolling the train stations observing, on a frequent basis, resident drug dealers exit from the southbound trains, ultimately to sell their drugs in the community. Many of the participants were known to the police as drug dealers or perhaps drug runners. Knowledge of the distribution practice of drug dealers and familiarity with the dealers themselves led to frequent arrests.

In turn, the participants thereafter adjusted their plans by disembarking from the train in municipalities other than their place of residence and ultimate point of distribution. For instance, drug dealers residing in Asbury Park or Long Branch frequently got off the train in Red Bank and took a taxi cab to their ultimate place of distribution, notwithstanding the fact that if they remained on the train south of Red Bank it would stop at both Long Branch and Asbury Park. Inquiries by the police revealed that the cost of the cab fare to Asbury Park from Red Bank is many, many times the expense of traveling the same distance on the train. These Conclusions on the part of the Red Bank police as to the pattern of conduct were confirmed by subsequent apprehension of drug dealers at the Red Bank train station and from the resulting questioning of the subjects in the arrest procedure. In addition, the police also relied upon information provided by confidential informants.

When this information was synthesized, a profile of the typical or prototype drug dealers or runners was developed as follows: they are young black males travelling together who exit from the southbound train at Red Bank and who frequently wear warm-up suits with starter jackets. Such individuals would exit ...


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