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State v. Vega

December 10, 2008

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
FELIX VEGA, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Somerset County, Indictment No. 06-06-0465.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted: November 19, 2008

Before Judges Cuff and Baxter.

Following denial of his motion to suppress, defendant Felix Vega pled guilty to third degree possession of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS) (cocaine) with intent to distribute, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5a(1), (Count Two); second degree possession of CDS with intent to distribute within 500 feet of public housing, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7.1, (Count Three); three counts of third degree aggravated assault against a law enforcement officer, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1b(5)(a), (Counts Four, Five and Six); one count of third degree resisting arrest, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2a(3), (Count Seven); and one count of third degree possession of cocaine, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10a(1), (Count Eight). At sentencing, Judge Edward Coleman imposed a mandatory extended term of nine years imprisonment with a four-year period of parole ineligibility on Count Two. On Count Three, the judge imposed a concurrent nine-year term of imprisonment. The judge merged Count Seven with Count Six and imposed concurrent five-year terms of imprisonment on Counts Four, Five, Six, and Eight. This sentence is concurrent to a sentence imposed in Middlesex County. The judge also imposed the appropriate fines, penalties and assessments.

On appeal, defendant raises the following points, all of which are associated with the stop and search:

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN DENYING THE MOTION TO SUPPRESS

A. The Police Officers Lacked Probable Cause To Stop The Automobile In Which The Defendant Was A Passenger.

B. The Police Officers Lacked Probable Cause To Arrest The Defendant On The Sole Basis Of A Minor Traffic Violation And Therefore The Arrest And Subsequent Search Were Illegal.

C. The Police Officers Lacked Reasonable Suspicion To "Stop and Frisk" The Defendant And Thus The Arrest And Subsequent Search Were Illegal.

We affirm.

On March 25, 2006, defendant and Donald Taylor were driving in Taylor's silver Acura in Franklin Township. Taylor arranged to give defendant a ride in exchange for gas money and two cigarettes dipped in PCP.

As Taylor was driving on Millstone Road in Franklin Township, he was observed by Sergeant Darrin Russo and Officers Mark Reiner and Ordel Taylor of the Franklin Township Police Department. The officers were dressed in plain clothes and operated an unmarked car, which was stopped at a stop sign at an intersection with Millstone Road.

The officers testified the Acura passed them at a high rate of speed, well over the posted 25 m.p.h. speed limit. The officers observed that the windows were tinted, but the passenger's window was down, and the driver's window was partially open. The officers ...


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