On appeal from the Superior Court, Appellate Division, whose opinion is reported at 383 N.J. Super. 205 (2006).
(This syllabus is not part of the opinion of the Court. It has been prepared by the Office of the Clerk for the convenience of the reader. It has been neither reviewed nor approved by the Supreme Court. Please note that, in the interests of brevity, portions of any opinion may not have been summarized).
Detective Sheridan of the New Jersey State Police Narcotics and Organized Crime Bureau met with an informant who told him that defendant Vincent Dispoto was associated with organized crime, was diverting money into offshore accounts, and was dealing narcotics. The informant also said Dispoto, who was involved in a divorce proceeding, had asked if the informant knew anybody who would kill Dispoto's wife. After a meeting with Dispoto six days later, the informant told Sheridan that Dispoto had denied wanting to have his wife killed because he would be the primary suspect.
On review of the information gathered, Sheridan's supervisor concluded there was insufficient evidence to pursue a murder-for-hire investigation against Dispoto. However, the supervisor did direct Sheridan to notify Jacqueline Dispoto that they had received uncorroborated information that she was in danger. After hearing the news, Jacqueline became very upset. Sheridan encouraged Jacqueline to seek a temporary restraining order against Dispoto, which Municipal Court Judge Troxell authorized. Later that evening, Sheridan telephoned Judge Troxell to request the domestic violence search warrant. Sheridan informed Judge Troxell that he believed the informant to be reliable, but did not tell the court that the state police had not used this informant before. Sheridan also testified that Jacqueline believed "the threat to be credible" because she previously had obtained two temporary restraining orders (both of which had been withdrawn). Judge Troxell issued a domestic violence search warrant permitting the search for weapons.
In the early evening of April 25, 2001, Dispoto was taken to the police department to be served with the TRO and the search warrant for weapons. After a little more than an hour, although not under arrest, Dispoto was given his Miranda warnings, after which he signed the Miranda form. Dispoto was then taken to his office and residence by the police, who executed the search warrant. At the residence, police found Dispoto's unregistered revolver and placed Dispoto under arrest. The police continued the weapons search, and a locked safe was found inside the garage. When asked what was in the safe, Dispoto essentially responded that there were two pounds of marijuana. The police stopped the search pending the application for a criminal search warrant. Dispoto was taken to headquarters.
An application for a search warrant to search the garage for CDS and drug paraphernalia was filed the following day. The affidavit in support of the application did not disclose that Dispoto was not under arrest when he was served with the TRO and weapons search warrant. The criminal search warrant issued and the police opened the safe and seized the contraband contained inside. Dispoto was indicted and charged with possession of a controlled dangerous substance with intent to distribute while in possession of a weapon, possession of a controlled dangerous substance with intent to distribute, and possession of a controlled dangerous substance.
Dispoto moved to dismiss the indictment and to suppress the contraband. He later moved to suppress his post-arrest statements, asserting that law enforcement officials had obtained those statements in violation of Miranda. The court granted Dispoto's motion to suppress the pistol. Later, the court suppressed Dispoto's post-arrest statements and the marijuana and the drug paraphernalia seized pursuant to the criminal search warrant. The court found that Dispoto was not in police custody when the Miranda warnings first were administered and, therefore, Dispoto was denied his Miranda protections when the warnings were not re-administered at the time he was arrested for possessing a weapon without a permit. The court suppressed the marijuana and the drug paraphernalia based on the failure of the law enforcement officials' application for the warrant to include information about the timing of the Miranda warning and Dispoto's arrest. The court concluded that the search warrant process was so tainted that the fruits of the search had to be suppressed.
The Appellate Division granted the State's motion for leave to appeal and affirmed the order. It held that the failure to re-administer Miranda warnings at the time of arrest required suppression of Dispoto's post-arrest incriminating statement, notwithstanding the pre-custodial warning about an hour earlier. State v. Dispoto, 383 N.J. Super. 205 (App. Div. 2006). The Supreme Court granted leave to appeal.
HELD: Because there was insufficient evidence to support the issuance of the underlying domestic violence search warrant, the criminal search warrant was invalid as fruit of the poisonous tree. While this holding renders moot the Appellate Division's finding that failure to re-administer Miranda warnings at the time of arrest required suppression of Dispoto's post-arrest incriminating statements, the Court adds in respect of the issue of the Miranda warnings only that no bright line or per se rule governs whether re-administration is required following a pre-custodial Miranda warning.
1. The remedial protections afforded under the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (NJPDVA), N.J.S.A. 2C:2517 to -33, are intended for the benefit of victims of domestic violence and are not meant to serve as a pretext for obtaining information to advance a criminal investigation against an alleged abuser. To obtain the protections afforded under the NJPDVA, a victim must demonstrate that the alleged abuser committed an act of domestic violence. (pp. 13-17)
2. To sustain the validity of the domestic violence search warrant that issued against Dispoto, there must have been probable cause to believe that Dispoto made a threat against his wife. The informant relayed a contradictory expression of intent by Dispoto. The informant's statement fails to support a finding of probable cause that a threat was made. (pp.17-18)
3. The information that was conveyed to Dispoto's wife was incomplete, and as a result was capable of misleading her and ultimately, through her and her reaction to it, the magistrate. There is no such evidence here that any threat was made under circumstances under which it carries the serious promise of death. Permeating the series of events that transpired is the sense that the domestic violence search warrant was being used by law enforcement representatives to uncover evidence of criminal behavior unrelated to Dispoto's alleged acts of domestic violence. The invalid domestic violence search warrant with which Dispoto rightfully complied at the time may not be used as a bootstrap mechanism to obtain evidence to sustain issuance of a criminal search warrant. The evidence that was produced through Dispoto's compliance with the domestic violence search warrant consequently constituted fruits of the poisonous tree and must be suppressed. (pp. 18-19)
4. The Court rejects the Appellate Division's bright-line approach that failure to re-administer Miranda warnings at the time of arrest required suppression of Dispoto's post-arrest incriminating statement, notwithstanding the pre-custodial warning about an hour earlier. The Court retains the more measured and traditional totality-of-the-circumstances assessment. Thus, where pre-custodial warnings have been given to a defendant as part of a continuing pattern of interactions between the defendant and the police, and during that continuing sequence of events nothing of an intervening nature occurs that would dilute the effectiveness of the warning, there would appear to be no need to require another warning. Such determinations are better suited to fact-based assessments rather than bright-line pronouncements. (pp. 19-21)
The judgment of the Appellate Division is AFFIRMED, as MODIFIED by this opinion.
JUSTICES LONG, ZAZZALI, ALBIN, WALLACE and RIVERA-SOTO join in JUSTICE LAVECCHIA's opinion.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice LaVECCHIA
The State appeals from the affirmance of an order granting defendant Vincent Dispoto's motion to suppress an incriminating statement and other evidence gathered while law enforcement officials executed a domestic violence warrant to search for weapons. State v. Dispoto, 383 N.J. Super. 205 (App. Div.), leave to appeal granted, 186 N.J. 358 (2006). That statement and evidence had been used, in turn, to obtain a criminal warrant to search defendant's residence and office for narcotics. Defendant received Miranda*fn1 warnings at the time that the officers served him with the domestic violence search warrant at police headquarters. However, defendant was not reMirandized at the time he was placed under arrest, approximately one hour later, when he turned over an unlicensed gun to the police at his home. The Appellate Division held that the failure to re-administer Miranda warnings at the time of arrest required suppression of defendant's post-arrest incriminating statement, notwithstanding the pre-custodial warning about an hour earlier.
Two issues are advanced in this appeal. The issue that has drawn the parties' foremost attention is whether law enforcement officials must re-administer Miranda warnings to a suspect at the time of arrest even though the individual recently received such warnings during pre-custodial interactions with the officers. ...