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State v. Soriano

October 29, 2008

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
JAN SORIANO, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Monmouth County, Indictment No. 04-03-0658.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted September 25, 2008

Before Judges Winkelstein and Gilroy.

Defendant Jan Soriano and co-defendant Robert Cerone were charged by a Monmouth County Grand Jury with third-degree possession of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS) (cocaine), N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10a(1). On August 18, 2004, the trial court denied their motion seeking to suppress evidence. On January 4, 2005, the court denied defendant's motion seeking to suppress statements he made to the police after his arrest. Tried to a jury, defendant was found guilty of unlawful possession of a CDS and co-defendant was found not guilty of the charge, but guilty of aiding defendant in the unlawful possession of the cocaine. On June 17, 2005, the trial court sentenced defendant to eighteen months of probation and a suspension of his driving privileges for a period of six months. All appropriate fines and penalties were also imposed.

On appeal, defendant argues:

POINT I

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN DENYING DR. SORIANO'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS AS THE POLICE DID NOT HAVE A REASONABLE SUSPICION OF CRIMINAL ACTIVITY TO JUSTIFY THE MOTOR VEHICLE STOP.

POINT II

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN DENYING DR. SORIANO'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS HIS STATEMENT THAT HE HAS A DRUG PROBLEM AS DETECTIVE SCULLY'S CONDUCT WAS THE FUNCTIONAL EQUIVALENT OF INTERROGATION IN VIOLATION OF MIRANDA.*fn1

POINT III

PATROLMAN TOWNSEND'S AND DETECTIVE SCULLY'S EXPERT OPINION TESTIMONY ON HOW CDS IS DISTRIBUTED WITHOUT BEING PACKAGED WAS IMPROPERLY INTRODUCED TO THE JURY IN VIOLATION OF N.J.R.E. 702 AND REQUIRED THE TRIAL COURT TO INSTRUCT THE JURY ON EXPERT TESTIMONY. (NOT RAISED BELOW).

After considering defendant's arguments in light of the record and applicable law, we affirm.

I.

The arguments presented in Points I and II challenge the trial court's denial of defendant's pretrial motions to suppress evidence and to suppress his post-arrest statements. Accordingly, we briefly state the facts as adduced from the transcripts of the hearings on the motions.

On September 28, 2003, at approximately 8:30 p.m., Detective-Sergeant James Scully and Detective Jay Clark of the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Narcotics Task Force, along with Patrolman Brian Townsend of the Asbury Park Police Department, were on patrol in the City of Asbury Park. The officers were in an unmarked police vehicle equipped with concealed emergency lights, and were wearing black police vests printed with the word "POLICE" in large white letters on the front and back. They also had police badges hanging from their necks. Scully was driving, Clark was in the front passenger seat, and Townsend was in the back seat.

Shortly after 9:00 p.m., the officers drove to the 900 block of Bond Avenue, an area known as a "high narcotics area." On Bond Avenue, they observed a red Toyota automobile parked in the middle of the street. Two people were in the automobile, a driver and a front-seat passenger, later identified as co-defendant and defendant, respectively. A male was standing in the street at the passenger's side door of the automobile, leaning into the automobile through the passenger's window and conversing with defendant. None of the officers observed the unidentified male ...


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