On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County, Indictment No. 05-10-1850.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Skillman and Winkelstein.
Defendant was indicted for first-degree robbery, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1; second-degree kidnapping, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:13-1(b); and impersonating a law enforcement officer, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:28-8(b).
Defendant made a motion to suppress certain evidence against him, specifically an inculpatory statement made to New Jersey law enforcement officers following his arrest in Texas. The trial court conducted a two-day evidentiary hearing following which it issued a lengthy written opinion denying defendant's motion.
Defendant then entered into a plea agreement under which he agreed to plead guilty to the armed robbery and impersonating a law enforcement officer charges and the State agreed to dismiss the kidnapping charge and recommend that defendant be sentenced to an aggregate term not to exceed six years. The trial court sentenced defendant in accordance with the plea agreement to a six-year term of imprisonment for armed robbery, subject to the 85% period of parole ineligibility mandated by the No Early Release Act, N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2, and a concurrent fifteen-month term for impersonating a law enforcement officer.
On appeal, defendant's only argument is that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress. We reject this argument and affirm defendant's conviction and sentence.
The armed robbery to which defendant pled guilty was committed on January 19, 2005 at R.K. Fragrances, Inc., a wholesale distributor of colognes and perfumes located in Little Ferry, New Jersey. Defendant and his confederate gained entry to the company's warehouse by producing a gold shield and business card that purported to identify one of them as a New York City police officer.
Approximately two months later, on March 10, 2005, Sergeant Tony Viator of the Jefferson County Police Department in Beaumont, Texas, observed defendant changing lanes without using directional signals while driving a car with Pennsylvania license plates. Consequently, Sergeant Viator activated his overhead lights and stopped defendant. As Viator approached defendant's car, he observed defendant roll down all four windows. Viator considered this to be suspicious because narcotics carriers often roll down all of their windows in order to air out the vehicle so an officer will not smell drugs. Viator's suspicions regarding defendant's possible involvement in transporting drugs were increased by his observations of the car's dashboard, which had "several screws that had been tooled or recently taken out of the dash" and molding that "didn't match up[.]"
When Sergeant Viator asked defendant for his driver's license, he produced what appeared to be an Ontario, Canada, driver's license under the name Ernesto Ramos. A check of this license came back as "no record," which meant that there was no record of such a license being issued.
Defendant also produced two traffic summons, one issued in Houston, Texas, on March 1st and the other issued in Virginia on March 10. Both summons indicated that defendant resided in an apartment complex in Houston.
In response to Sergeant Viator's inquiry as to where he was coming from, defendant at first indicated he was coming from Allentown, Pennsylvania, where he had been for the last two weeks. However, this answer seemed to conflict with the Houston and Virginia traffic citations.
Defendant also produced an insurance card for the car, which was under the name of Arieal Ferreyna of Scranton, Pennsylvania, and he said that a male friend had lent ...