On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Monmouth County, Indictment No. 06-07-01602.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted January 13, 2009
Before Judges Skillman and Graves.
After his motion to suppress evidence without a warrant was denied, defendant William James Buckley pled guilty to third- degree possession of cocaine. He was sentenced to probation for two years. On appeal, defendant argues the trial court erred in denying his suppression motion because the two Neptune Township police officers who testified at the suppression hearing, "did not and could not articulate facts which gave rise to a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity." Based on our review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm the order denying defendant's motion to suppress.
Three witnesses testified during the suppression hearing: (1) Patrolman William Kirchner, who had been a police officer for twelve years; (2) Detective Philip Seidle, who had been a member of the Neptune Township Police Department for fourteen years; and (3) defendant testified on his own behalf. The officers testified they were in plain clothes in an unmarked police vehicle patrolling a "high intensity drug trafficking area," when they observed defendant engage in a hand-to-hand transaction which, based upon their experience, they believed was a narcotics transaction. Detective Seidle's testimony included the following:
[W]hen we come into that area, when we're patrolling, as part of our normal duties, we're looking around, observing things, looking for different cues that would indicate that something is awry.
And in this case, when I saw Mr. Buckley step to the car, the car pulled to the curb, I saw him step to the car, he looked both ways, and to me that was a cue that he was . . . looking around for police before he stepped to the car to do what he was going to do. . . . . . . .
Q: Okay. So, he stepped to the car. And once he steps to the car, what do you see?
A: I [saw] him lean into the window, he reaches in, and there's what appears to be some exchange or some type of transaction between the two people, the driver and Mr. Buckley. And then he leans out and the car immediately leaves the curb and goes east on Springwood Avenue, and makes a right onto Ridge Avenue and goes south.
Q: And based upon those actions that you've described, the hand movements, how did you believe that to be a hand to hand exchange transaction?
A: Just the brevity of it. And like I said, the location is just, it's typical. I mean, there's no better word to describe it. It's just typical. That's the type of behavior that we see consistently in that area.
[We] know . . . where the drug dealers tend to stand when we go into that area, where we look is on the corner right in front of Alpha Liquor, or in that . . . part of the block on the south side of the street, right where Mr. Buckley was. . . .
I [saw] him standing there when a car pulls to the curb. It's just the whole, it's the brevity. It's the fact that he approaches the car, and with very little or no conversation there's an exchange between the two. And then almost immediately he leans out of the window, he's looking both ways before he goes into the car. All of ...