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State v. Zutic

October 23, 1996

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
JOSEPH R. ZUTIC, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from Superior Court, Law Division, Passaic County.

Approved for Publication October 23, 1996.

Before Judges Havey, *fn1 Kestin and Eichen. The opinion of the court was delivered by Eichen, J.A.D.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Eichen

The opinion of the court was delivered by

EICHEN, J.A.D.

The primary issue on this appeal is whether a telephone tip from an untested informant consisting entirely of innocuous details concerning defendant's alleged criminal activities, even though the details were corroborated by independent police work, exhibited sufficient indicia of reliability to establish probable cause to search defendant and his motor vehicle under the Fourth Amendment. We conclude that it did not and reverse the denial of the motion to suppress.

Following the denial of his motion to suppress evidence in the Wayne Municipal Court, defendant Joseph R. Zutic was convicted of possession of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS), namely, approximately fifteen grams of marijuana, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10(a)(4); resisting arrest, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2a; possession of CDS in a motor vehicle, N.J.S.A. 39:4-49.1; and making an unsafe lane change, N.J.S.A. 39:4-88(b). Defendant was acquitted of possession of drug paraphernalia, N.J.S.A. 2C:36-2. The municipal court merged the possession of CDS in a motor vehicle into the drug possession conviction and imposed appropriate fines and penalties.

Defendant appealed to the Law Division where the trial Judge, following a trial de novo on the record, denied the motion to suppress and again found defendant guilty of the offenses, imposing the same fines and penalties as the municipal court. This appeal is taken from the Law Division judgment of conviction.

Defendant makes the following arguments on appeal:

POINT I

THE POLICE OFFICER LACKED PROBABLE CAUSE TO STOP THE DEFENDANT'S VEHICLE ON THE BASIS OF THE ALLEGED MOTOR VEHICLE VIOLATION.

POINT II

THE POLICE OFFICER LACKED PROBABLE CAUSE TO SEARCH THE DEFENDANT'S VEHICLE UNDER ANY EXCEPTION TO THE WARRANT REQUIREMENT.

POINT III

THE SUPERIOR COURT ERRED IN UPHOLDING THE SEARCH AND SEIZURE BASED ON THE TIP THAT ...


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