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State v. Hayes


January 30, 2008


On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Cape May County, Indictment No. 04-08-0543.

Per curiam.


Submitted November 15, 2007

Before Judges Cuff and Simonelli.

A grand jury indicted defendant Jamie Hayes for third degree conspiracy to possess a controlled dangerous substance, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10a(1) and N.J.S.A. 2C:5-2 (count one); third degree possession of a controlled dangerous substance (cocaine), contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10a(1) (count two); third degree possession of a controlled dangerous substance (cocaine) with the intent to distribute, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5a(1) and N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5b(3) (count three); and third degree possession of a controlled dangerous substance (cocaine) with the intent to distribute within 1000 feet of school property, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7 and N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5a(1) (count four).

Defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence, which was denied. Defendant subsequently entered an unconditional guilty plea to count two. Judge Alvarez imposed a two-year term of probation conditioned on 244 days time served, urine monitoring, and drug counseling. The judge also imposed the appropriate penalties and dismissed the remaining counts.

On this appeal, defendant contends his questioning by the police and the subsequent seizure of evidence was unlawful. We reject this argument and affirm.


On May 10, 2004, at approximately 12:30 a.m., a dispatcher at the Wildwood Police Department notified Officer Albert Rhodes that a man had entered the lobby area of the police station, pounded on the doors, asked for help, and ran outside. Rhodes walked outside and observed defendant and co-defendant John R. Roy, both of whom were yelling at Rhodes. The men were out of breath, very excited, and appeared as though they had "just been in a tussle." Defendant had an abrasion on his face, and told Rhodes that Roy had just robbed him. Rhodes separated the men and took defendant inside the lobby of the police station to ensure his safety. Rhodes "never indicated that [defendant] had to stay when [they] were in the lobby and [he] never indicated that [defendant] couldn't stay."

Believing defendant was the victim of a robbery, Rhodes asked him what happened. Rhodes also asked defendant for his name because he "wanted to be sure that [he] had a good identity on [defendant] so [the police] would be able to get in touch with [defendant] for testimonial purposes." Defendant gave the name "John Wilson" and a birth date.

Rhodes "always ask[s] for identification when [he's] dealing with - whether it's a victim or a suspect in a crime." If a victim gives Rhodes a name verbally, he usually asks for some form of identification. However, because defendant "appeared nervous when [Rhodes] had questioned him as to the validity of his information," Rhodes felt that defendant may not have provided his real name. Thus, to verify defendant's name, Rhodes asked him if he had anything with his name on it. Defendant said he had nothing. Eventually, defendant produced a pay stub bearing the name, "Jamie Keith Hayes." Because defendant gave Rhodes a different name than that appearing on the pay stub, Rhodes asked the dispatcher to "verify who [defendant] was and to check him for warrants." The warrant check revealed an outstanding warrant from Bridgeton for $2500. Rhodes placed defendant under arrest and searched him. The search revealed a glass pipe used for smoking marijuana in defendant's right front pocket.

After arresting defendant, Rhodes spoke to Roy to get his side of the story. Rhodes also went to the scene of the robbery and spoke to a witness, who said defendant was selling cocaine to Roy. Rhodes then searched the police department's parking lot and found a plastic bag containing crack cocaine. After taking defendant to the hospital for treatment of a head injury, Rhodes took defendant to the Cape May County Jail. A search there revealed crack cocaine in defendant's left front pocket.

Defendant moved to suppress evidence. After hearing testimony from Rhodes, and assessing his credibility, Judge Alvarez denied the motion.


In his motion to suppress, defendant contended his interaction with Rhodes was not consensual and therefore constituted a seizure subject to the protections of the Fourth Amendment.*fn1 On this appeal, defendant contends for the first time that his questioning by Rhodes and the subsequent seizure of evidence violated his rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed. 2d 694 (1966).

"Generally, a guilty plea constitutes a waiver of all issues which were or could have been addressed by the trial judge before the guilty plea." State v. Robinson, 224 N.J. Super. 495, 498 (App. Div. 1988). There are only three exceptions to this general waiver rule: (1) grounds preserved under a conditional or retraxit plea under Rule 3:9-3(f); (2) review of "denial[s] of admission into pretrial intervention" programs under Rule 3:28(g); and (3) review of denials of motions to suppress physical evidence due to an unlawful search or seizure under Rule 3:5-7(d). Id. at 499.

None of these exceptions apply here. Defendant did not preserve his right to appeal on Miranda grounds, nor was the denial of his motion to suppress based upon Miranda. Since defendant failed to challenge the search and seizure under Miranda, and later pled guilty without reserving the right to do so, he is barred from raising this issue on direct appeal. State v. Knight, 183 N.J. 449, 471 (2005).

Even if this issue was properly before us, defendant's argument fails. On-the-scene statements and admissions made by a defendant to police prior to receiving a Miranda warning are admissible where a defendant, although not free to leave the scene, was not yet under custodial interrogation. State v. Gosser, 50 N.J. 438, 445-46 (1967), cert. denied, 390 U.S. 1035, 88 S.Ct. 1434, 20 L.Ed. 2d 295 (1968). "[G]eneral on-the-scene questioning as to facts surrounding a crime" or other general questioning of citizens in the fact-finding process is not affected by the requirements of the Miranda rule. Id. at 446.

Here, defendant was not under custodial interrogation when Rhodes questioned him, nor was he suspected of having committed a crime. Thus, the recently decided case, State v. O'Neill, 193 N.J. 148 (2007), has no applicability here. Rather, defendant and Rhodes were engaged in general on-the-scene questioning as to facts surrounding an alleged robbery. Defendant was the alleged victim of that robbery, not a suspect, and Rhodes was not questioning him as a suspect. Under the facts of this case, defendant was not entitled to a Miranda warning during this "general on-the-scene questioning." Gosser, supra, 50 N.J. at 446.


We will now address defendant's Fourth Amendment argument. No constitutional justification is required for a police officer to conduct a field inquiry. State v. Sirianni, 347 N.J. Super. 382, 387 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 172 N.J. 178 (2002). "[L]aw enforcement officers do not violate the Fourth Amendment by merely approaching an individual on the street or in another public place, by asking him if he is willing to answer some questions, [or] by putting questions to him if the person is willing to listen. . . ." Florida v. Royer, 460 U.S. 491, 497, 103 S.Ct. 1319, 1324, 75 L.Ed. 2d 229, 236 (1983); State v. Sheffield, 62 N.J. 441, 447, cert. denied, 414 U.S. 876, 94 S.Ct. 83, 38 L.Ed. 2d 121 (1973); Sirianni, supra, 347 N.J. Super. at 388. If the person remains free to disregard the officer's questions and walk away, a seizure has not occurred and Fourth Amendment protections are not implicated. United States v. Mendenhall, 446 U.S. 544, 553, 100 S.Ct. 1870, 1877, 64 L.Ed. 2d 497, 509 (1980); Sheffield, supra, 62 N.J. at 447. However, "'[i]f, during the course of'" an officer's reasonable inquiries, "the circumstances 'give rise to [unrelated] suspicions . . . an officer may broaden [the] inquiry and satisfy those suspicions.'" State v. Chapman, 332 N.J. Super. 452, 462 (App. Div. 2000) (quoting State v. Dickey, 152 N.J. 468, 479-80 (1998)), appeal dismissed, 167 N.J. 624 (2001). Moreover, "[i]n the course [of an investigation] a police officer is free to ask a person for identification without implicating the Fourth Amendment. Interrogation relating to one's identity or a request for identification by the police does not, by itself, constitute a Fourth Amendment seizure." Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial Dist. Court of Nev., 542 U.S. 177, 185, 124 S.Ct. 2451, 2458, 159 L.Ed. 2d 292, 302 (2004) (quoting I.N.S. v. Delgado, 466 U.S. 210, 216, 104 S.Ct. 1758, 1762, 80 L.Ed. 2d 247, 255 (1984)).

Here, Judge Alvarez found Rhodes' testimony credible. The judge also found that because Rhodes believed defendant was the victim of a robbery, there was nothing pretextual or unlawful about the initial encounter between the two, or Rhodes' request for identification, and that once Rhodes felt defendant may have provided false information, he had an obligation as a police officer to obtain valid identification from defendant. The judge determined Rhodes' inquiries were innocent, logical and required, and that any police request for identification does not constitute a seizure or detention within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. The judge emphasized that what happened here was not an encounter initiated by the police on the street, but rather an encounter initiated by defendant, who sought police protection because he had been robbed.

In reviewing a motion to suppress, we "must uphold the factual findings underlying the trial court's decision so long as those findings are 'supported by sufficient credible evidence in the record.'" State v. Elders, 192 N.J. 224, 243 (2007) (quoting State v. Locurto, 157 N.J. 463, 474 (1999)); State v. Alvarez, 238 N.J. Super. 560, 562-64 (App. Div. 1990). We should defer to the trial court's credibility findings, Locurto, supra, 157 N.J. at 474, and not change the trial court's findings simply because we "might have reached a different conclusion were [we] the trial tribunal" or because "the trial court decided all evidence or inference conflicts in favor of one side." State v. Johnson, 42 N.J. 146, 162 (1964). Rather, we should only modify a trial court's findings if they are so clearly mistaken and "so plainly unwarranted that the interests of justice demand intervention and correction[.]" Ibid. In that instance, we should "appraise the record as if [we] were deciding the matter at inception and make [our] own findings and conclusions." Ibid.

After carefully reviewing the record, in the light of the argument presented, we conclude the judge's credibility determination, factual findings, and legal conclusions were amply supported by competent and credible evidence in the record.


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