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State v. White

November 21, 1997

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
JAMES T. WHITE, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County.

Approved for Publication November 25, 1997.

Before Judges Petrella, Skillman and Wertheimer. The opinion of the court was delivered by Petrella, P.j.a.d.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Petrella

The opinion of the court was delivered by

PETRELLA, P.J.A.D.

After his suppression motion was denied, defendant James T. White entered a retraxit plea of guilty to third degree receiving stolen property (N.J.S.A. 2C:20-7). White was sentenced to two years of probation, and assessed a Victims of Crime Compensation Board penalty of $50 and a Safe Neighborhood Services Fund fine of $75.

On appeal, permitted pursuant to R. 3:5-7(d) despite his plea of guilty, White asserts that the Law Division Judge erred in ruling that police officers from the City of Orange were authorized to conduct a warrantless search of a residence in the City of Newark, notwithstanding their investigation of a crime that had been committed in the City of Orange and the consent of the owner of the residence. Accordingly, White contends that the stolen property seized at the premises should have been suppressed as the fruit of the poisonous tree. See Wong Sun v. United States, 371 U.S. 471, 83 S. Ct. 407, 9 L. Ed. 2d 441 (1963).

The suppression hearing was conducted essentially based on a submission of the following facts to the trial court by the parties. Officers of the Orange Police Department were conducting an investigation of a June 21, 1995 burglary and theft from premises in the City of Orange. During the investigation the police obtained a written statement from a witness that led them to suspect an individual named Eugene Baxter was involved in the incident. Baxter was arrested on July 26, 1995, and gave an inculpatory statement to the police in which he named White as an individual who purchased some of the stolen property from him. *fn1 Baxter provided the Orange police with White's address and directions to his residence in Newark.

As a result of that statement, the same day the City of Orange police officers went to White's residence in Newark where they identified themselves as law enforcement officers to White's mother. At the time the Orange police officers went to White's residence, they were not accompanied by any Newark police officer or representative of the prosecutor's office. At the officers' request, White's mother consented to a search of her residence and signed a form captioned "ORANGE POLICE DEPARTMENT" and "CONSENT TO SEARCH." *fn2 The search of the premises yielded several items which the officers suspected had been stolen in the burglary in the City of Orange and those items were seized by the officers.

On July 28, 1995, White gave a statement at the Orange Police Department in which he identified photographs of the subject property as items which codefendant Dwayne Rufus Brown sold to him. White was arrested for receiving stolen property and subsequently pleaded guilty after his suppression motion was denied. At the plea hearing, he said that two men, Baxter and another whom he knew as Balal, had approached him and offered to sell him a computer, an air conditioner, and an answering machine. Although the low price led him to believe that the items might have been stolen, he nevertheless bought them. It was stipulated that the property purchased was of a value in excess of $500.

White argues that the City of Orange police officers lacked statutory authority to investigate and seize property outside of their jurisdiction. This argument was rejected by the Law Division Judge on the suppression motion. There was no challenge there or here to the consent given by White's mother for the search on the basis of any form of coercion.

Defendant asserts that N.J.S.A. 40A:14-152, which defines the powers of police officers and constables, essentially should be read to prohibit all police action outside a municipality for which they have been appointed, other than those specified in other statutory exceptions. *fn3

We reject White's argument. N.J.S.A. 40A:14-152 states:

The members and officers of a police department and force, within the territorial limits of the municipality, shall have all the powers of peace officers and upon view may apprehend and arrest any disorderly person or any person committing a breach of the peace. Said members and officers shall have the power to serve and execute process issuing out of the courts having local criminal jurisdiction in the municipality ...


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