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In re A.B.

Decided: August 1, 1994.

IN RE A.B., A JUVENILE.


Ciccone, J.s.c.

Ciccone

CICCONE, J.S.C.

I. STATEMENT OF FACTS

The above referenced matter came before this court on a motion to suppress evidence and a motion to dismiss the complaint. In order to promote efficiency and expediency, these two motions will be dealt with jointly in this opinion.

On October 30, 1994, Bruce Costello, an officer with the Juvenile Intensive Supervision Program (JISP), a division of the New

Jersey Department of Corrections, responded to the residence of A.B. in New Brunswick, New Jersey. A.B. is a juvenile enrolled in JISP in lieu of a term of incarceration and Costello's visit was pursuant to a routine curfew check.

Upon arrival, Costello spoke with S.B., A.B.'s mother, who stated that she found five small bags filled with a white powdery substance on the inside of A.B.'s bed frame. When Costello questioned A.B. regarding the bags he did so without reading A.B. his Miranda warnings. A.B. stated that it was crushed aspirin that he was going to give a friend at school to sell. The New Brunswick Police Department subsequently arrested A.B. (the juvenile), and Juvenile Delinquency Complaint #9401503 was filed charging A.B. with possession of a controlled dangerous substance (cocaine) and possession of a controlled dangerous substance (cocaine) with intent to distribute.

Subsequent laboratory analysis revealed that the powder was not a controlled dangerous substance. Therefore, on November 4, 1993, the complaint was amended to include a violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:35-11a(3), Possession of an Imitation Controlled Dangerous Substance with Intent to Distribute. The court found probable cause that the juvenile committed the offenses charged and released him to the custody of his mother under JISP supervision. On November 30, 1994, counts 1 and 2 were dismissed at the State's request, and a not guilty plea was entered on Count 3. A pre-trial hearing was conducted on February 16, 1994, to determine if the juvenile's statements were obtained in violation of Miranda. Costello testified that pursuant to program guidelines, A.B. was required to answer questions truthfully. Costello further explained that the questioning took place in the living room of A.B.'s home and in the presence of his mother. In addition, Costello testified that he does not have arrest powers pursuant to his duties as a JISP officer and would not have made an arrest attempt if A.B. had left the premises. Finally, Costello testified that the New Brunswick Police Department was not contacted and that officers were not present until after he had questioned A.B.

II. APPLICATION OF MIRANDA TO JUVENILE'S STATEMENTS

It is well settled that Miranda warnings are required when a person is subject to a "custodial interrogation." Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 444, 16 L. Ed. 2d 694, 86 S. Ct. 1602 (1966). In addition, it is uncontroverted that a case by case analysis is required in order to determine if a person has been significantly deprived of his or her freedom so as to trigger Miranda. Factors to be considered in making this determination include the duration of the detention, the nature and degree of the pressure applied to detain the individual, the physical surroundings of the questioning and the language used by the officer. United States v. Booth, 669 F.2d 1231, 1235 (9th Cir. 1981); State v. Godfrey, 131 N.J. Super. 168, 175-77, 329 A.2d 75 (App. Div. 1974), aff'd, 67 N.J. 267, 337 A.2d 371 (1975); State v. Cunningham, 153 N.J. Super. 350, 352-53, 379 A.2d 860 (App. Div. 1977). In addition, "custody" does not necessitate a formal arrest or require that questioning occur in a police station. Under certain circumstances, it may occur in a public place or a suspect's home. State v. Coburn, 221 N.J. Super. 586, 535 A.2d 531 (App. Div. 1987), certif. denied, 110 N.J. 300 (1988). Thus, whether a custodial interrogation exists is fact sensitive and depends upon the totality of the circumstances. State v. Pierson, 223 N.J. Super. 62, 67, 537 A.2d 1340 (App. Div. 1988).

Initially, the defendant argues that the complaint against A.B. should be dismissed, or in the alternative the statements obtained from A.B. should be suppressed, as these statements were secured from him by Costello, acting in his capacity as a JISP officer, in violation of Miranda. Specifically, the defense points to Costello's testimony that as a condition of being placed on JISP, A.B. was required, by agreement, to answer truthfully regarding any matter about which he may be questioned. Failure to so respond would lead to possible sanctions, including dismissal from the JISP program and re-sentencing to the New Jersey Training School for Boys in Jamesburg (Jamesburg). Therefore, the defense contends

that, as a result of these conditions, this situation was the equivalent of a "custodial interrogation" triggering ...


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