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State in Interest of J.B.

October 12, 1995

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, IN THE INTEREST OF J.B., A JUVENILE.


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

Approved for Publication October 12, 1995.

Before Judges King, Landau and Kleiner. The opinion of the court was delivered by Kleiner, J.A.D.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kleiner

The opinion of the court was delivered by KLEINER, J.A.D.

Pursuant to leave granted, the State appeals an order suppressing evidence which was seized without a warrant from J.B. by a police officer. Defendant is a juvenile who was arrested for juvenile delinquency, specifically acts which, if committed by an adult, would constitute: (1) unlawful possession of a weapon, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5; (2) possession of a controlled dangerous substance, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10a(1); and (3) possession of a controlled dangerous substance with intent to distribute, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5b(2).

On October 13, 1994, Patrolmen McLeod and Davila, members of the Camden Police department bicycle patrol, were engaged in an organized police activity known as a "corner sweep." When a "corner sweep" is planned, both the day shift of bicycle patrolmen and the regular night shift of bicycle patrolmen join forces at night and visit street corners in high drug-trafficking zones in Camden. Individuals found congregating on street corners are approached and asked for identification. The names of those individuals who respond to the inquiry are then cross-referenced with names on the police outstanding warrant list. Those individuals not wanted on that warrant list are asked to disperse fromthe corner. Special emphasis on dispersal is directed at those individuals not residing in the immediate area.

On that date, at about 11 p.m., McLeod and his partner were cycling to the corner of 24th and High Streets, a high drug-trafficking intersection. While en route, they received a dispatch from police headquarters that the police department had received an anonymous citizen telephone complaint about a large crowd reported to be selling drugs on the corner of 24th and High Street. As McLeod approached that intersection from a distance of one-half block, he observed five individuals congregated on the corner. He recognized one individual, later identified as the juvenile, J.B., as someone he had seen regularly in the neighborhood. As McLeod and Davila approached the congregated group, J.B. ran from the group. Davila began to converse with the remaining individuals and McLeod walked to the corner to see if he could find J.B. with the intent to question him. McLeod walked around the corner but J.B. was not in sight.

McLeod did see another individual seated on the steps of a nearby porch. He noticed that individual looking back in the direction of the porch. Utilizing a flashlight, McLeod made an observation of the porch and found J.B. in a crouched position on his knees. The following colloquy on direct examination best explains the ensuing activity:

Q. Okay. And when you saw him cradled over what did you do --

A. -- when I saw him cradled I assumed he was just simply hiding. And when I told him to get up, as he got -- went to grab him to get up the drugs and everything was just underneath of him, the drugs and the gun.

Q. Why did you lift him up?

A. I lift -- I lift him up -- actually I lift him up for my safety and his safety 'cause I didn't want -- I didn't want -- I didn't know what he had underneath of him at the time. He's like this. I just want to be safe.

McLeod found a medicine bottle containing thirty-nine glassine envelopes of "crack cocaine" and an automatic handgun loaded with five live bullets under J.B. when he stood erect. McLeodconfiscated these items. J.B. was arrested and charged with delinquency.

The motion Judge, relying on State v. Tucker, 136 N.J. 158, 642 A.2d 401 (1994), suppressed the evidence. We conclude that the facts presented here are distinguishable from the stipulated ...


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