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State v. Bray

July 24, 2008

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
WILLIE E. BRAY, JR., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Monmouth County, Indictment Number 05-12-2718.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted June 3, 2008

Before Judges Fuentes and Chambers.

Defendant Willie Bray pled guilty pursuant to a negotiated plea agreement to one count of third-degree distribution of cocaine, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5(b)(3). He was sentenced to a term of five years, with two-and-one-half years of parole ineligibility. The court also imposed the mandatory fines and penalties.

Prior to pleading guilty, defendant moved before the trial court to suppress evidence gathered by the police that lead to his arrest. The court denied defendant's motion after conducting an evidentiary hearing. Defendant now appeals raising the following arguments.

POINT I

THE TRIAL COURT'S DECISION DENYING THE MOTION TO SUPPRESS MUST BE REVERSED BECAUSE THE OFFICER HAD NO REASONABLE ARTICULABLE SUSPICION UPON WHICH TO STOP CO-DEFENDANT, ANTHONY MENTONE. THE INVESTIGATORY STOP OF THE CO-DEFENDANT WAS CONVERTED INTO AN ILLEGAL SEIZURE WHEN, ABSENT PROBABLE CAUSE, THE OFFICER OPENED THE VAN DOOR, JUMPED INSIDE THE VEHICLE, PLACED HIMSELF UNLAWFULLY IN THE VIEWING AREA, AND MADE A PLAIN-VIEW OBSERVATION. FINALLY, THE OFFICER HAD NO REASONABLE SUSPICION OR PROBABLE CAUSE TOWARDS DEFENDANT, WILLIE BRAY, ABSENT THE ILLEGAL SEIZURE OF ITEMS FROM THE CO-DEFENDANT. THEREFORE, THE ARREST AND SEIZURE OF CONTRABAND FROM DEFENDANT WAS THE FRUIT OF THE POISONOUS TREE AND REQUIRED SUPPRESSION OF THE EVIDENCE.

A. The Officer Lacked Both a Reasonable Articulable Suspicion Upon Which To Approach the Co-Defendant As Well As Probable Cause To Arrest.

B. The Officer Lacked The Probable Cause Required To Open Co-Defendant's Car Door And Jump Inside The Vehicle. Therefore, He Was Not At A lawful Vantage Point When He Saw The Contraband in Plain-View. His Actions Constitute An Unlawful Seizure And The Evidence Should Have Been Suppressed. Moreover, The Trial Judge Erred By Misconstruing Facts And Relying On Facts Not In Evidence, Thereby Depriving Defendant Of His Rights To Due Process Of Law And A Fair Hearing.

C. The Illegal Seizure of the Contraband in the Co-defendant's Vehicle Is the Sole Nexus That Gives Rise to Probable Cause as to Defendant and Constitutes the Fruit of the Poisonous Tree.

POINT II

BECAUSE THE COURT IMPROPERLY ASSESSED AND WEIGHED AGGRAVATING AND MITIGATING FACTORS, DEFENDANT RECEIVED THE MAXIMM SENTENCE WHICH WAS EXCESSIVE.

We reject these arguments and affirm. We summarize the following facts from the testimony of Neptune Police Officer Jason Petillo, the only ...


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