On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County, Indictment No. 06-06-1057-I.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted September 23, 2009
Before Judges Fisher and Sapp-Peterson.
In this appeal, we review the denial of a motion to suppress evidence. Because evidence was obtained pursuant to a warrant executed by a municipal judge not authorized to permit a search in the municipality in question, we reverse and remand for further proceedings.
Although no testimony was heard at the suppression hearing, there appears to be no dispute that in the early evening of May 30, 2005, police officers responded to a call regarding a "disoriented elderly female" wandering about Abbot Avenue in Ridgefield. The officers located the woman and later learned she was Elizabeth Raymond, defendant's wife. According to the judge's decision, the officers took Mrs. Raymond to her home and noticed that both doors were open. After ringing the bell, knocking and calling out "hello" without response from anyone inside, the officers entered the home to see whether anyone was in need of assistance.
The judge stated in his written decision what occurred next:
While no persons were found on the first floor, the officers did discover several unsecured gun cases containing long guns inside. The basement also revealed many unsecured weapons and long gun cases. Additionally, the police discovered a large amount of gun powder in open coffee cans along with some closed tins in the laundry room. Housed nearby to the gunpowder was the gas boiler and gas hot water heater.
While the officers secured the home and awaited Ridgefield Police Detectives, [defendant]... arrived at the scene and was advised of the situation regarding his wife and home. Upon questioning, the defendant indicated that he did not have any weapons on his person or in his vehicle and consented to a search of his vehicle. However, when [one of the officers] approached the vehicle, he observed a gun case and several boxes of ammunition.
[A detective]... arrived at the scene a short time later and determined that a danger was presented by the placement of the gun powder in such close proximity to the pilot lights attached to the boiler and heater. In response, PSE&G was asked by the police to shut off gas service to the home as soon as possible. Additionally, the Bergen County Bomb Squad was called to determine the safety of the premises.
During this time period, the police present at the scene discovered four additional motor vehicles in the driveway[,]
[t]hree of which contained various boxes of ammunition in the passenger compartment. The police also entered the garage through a slightly open door. Inside, the police discovered many spent shotgun shells as well as a white propane gas container. Additionally, gun powder, boxes of ammunition, several rounds of ammunition and small red gas cans were found among piles of debris.
[Other detectives] arrived soon after and reviewed the conditions of the property. [One detective] determined that in order to ensure the safety of the area, all of the ...