On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Hudson County, I-06-03-00412.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted August 13, 2008
Before Judges R. B. Coleman and Sabatino.
Defendant Juan A. Haddock appeals the trial court's denial of his motion to suppress evidence and its imposition of a prison sentence that defendant contends is manifestly excessive.
After reviewing the record in light of the contentions advanced on appeal, we affirm.
On February 16, 2006, defendant was charged under Hudson County Indictment Number 06-03-00412 with eight counts of drug related offenses. The case proceeded to trial on May 19, 2006. On May 30, 2006, the court heard defendant's motion to suppress evidence, which was denied. On June 6, 2006, defendant entered a guilty plea to count three of the indictment, possession of a controlled dangerous substance with intent to distribute within one thousand feet of a school, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7 and -5a(1). In exchange for defendant's plea, the State agreed to recommend to the court a five-year prison sentence with two years parole ineligibility to run concurrent to the sentence defendant was serving at that time. The State also agreed to dismiss the remaining counts of the indictment.
On October 16, 2006, defendant appeared before the court for sentencing. The court sentenced defendant in accordance with the State's recommendation and imposed relevant fees and penalties. This appeal ensued.
On September 29, 2005, a citizen entered the Jersey City Police Department (JCPD) and stated that a drug dealer, identified by the complainant as Juan Haddock a/k/a Chino, who resided at 227 2nd Street. The complainant, who asked to remain anonymous, further stated that defendant sold narcotics, including heroin and cocaine, and delivered them using a vehicle. The complainant described the vehicle allegedly used by defendant as a gray Chrysler Concord and provided the JCPD with the vehicle's license plate number. The complainant also indicated that the vehicle was not registered to defendant.
Upon receiving this information, Sergeant William Olszewski began to investigate the matter. Olszewski first attempted to find a picture of defendant using the New Jersey Department of Corrections (DOC) website. Olszewski found a picture of defendant in the DOC database, as well as information indicating that defendant was wanted for escape. Thereafter, Olszewski contacted a confidential informant (CI), who had provided him with reliable information in the past, to ask whether he knew of defendant. The CI did have knowledge of defendant and stated that defendant delivered narcotics and was known to carry a handgun.
Later that day, Olszewski received a radio transmission from Sergeant McNally, advising Olszewski that he drove by the address provided by the citizen complainant and that the previously mentioned vehicle was parked across the street. Olszewski and his partner responded to the area as McNally began to set up surveillance of the vehicle. Before McNally could set up the surveillance, a man entered the vehicle and drove away. McNally could not identify the man because he was wearing a baseball cap pulled low to his face. McNally followed the vehicle and instructed Olszewski and his partner to follow also.
Shortly thereafter, the vehicle pulled over. Olszewski and his partner pulled their car in front of the vehicle and McNally, accompanied by Officer Williams, pulled over behind the vehicle, effectively preventing it from moving. Olszewski and his partner exited their vehicle, displaying their badges. Olszewski proceeded toward the vehicle with his gun drawn. As Olszewski approached, he observed the driver turn toward the passenger seat and push down the plastic surrounding the gear shift. As he moved closer, he could see the corner of a plastic bag protruding from the plastic cover surrounding the gear shifter. Based on his training and expertise, Olszewski believed the bag was either a butterfly or Ziploc bag, commonly used to package narcotics.
Olszewski removed the driver, whom he identified as defendant, from the vehicle and placed him under arrest. Olszewski then removed the plastic bag from under the gear shift. It contained four smaller bags of heroin, three bags of cocaine and a knotted bag of cocaine. A search of defendant revealed $1,530.
Defendant moved to suppress the evidence found in defendant's vehicle, alleging that Olszewski conducted an illegal search and seizure. The court found that Olszewski had probable cause to search defendant's vehicle, and that the search ...