On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County, Indictment No. 07-07-1300.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted November 12, 2009
Before Judges Graves and Sabatino.
On the morning of January 27, 2007, a police officer in Mahwah found defendant Eddie L. Levine in possession of cocaine and drug paraphernalia in a hotel parking lot. Following the rejection of his application to the pretrial intervention program ("PTI") and the denial of his motion to suppress the evidence obtained by the police, defendant pled guilty to third-degree possession of cocaine, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10a(1). The guilty plea was pursuant to a negotiated plea agreement, in which the State agreed to recommend a non-custodial sentence. The trial court accordingly sentenced defendant to four years of probation, plus various appropriate fines and penalties.
Defendant now appeals, raising two issues for our consideration:
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS BY MISTAKENLY CONCLUDING THAT OFFICER FASULO CONDUCTED A "FIELD INQUIRY[.]" FACTS REVEAL THAT THE OFFICER CONDUCTED AN INVESTIGATIVE STOP "WITHOUT THE REQUISITE REASONABLE SUSPICION OF CRIMINAL ACTIVITY[.]
DEFENDANT'S DENIAL OF ADMISSION INTO THE PRETRIAL INTERVENTION (PTI) PROGRAM WAS BASED UPON IRRELEVANT AND INAPPROPRIATE FACTORS AND NOT BASED UPON A CONSIDERATION OF ALL RELEVANT FACTORS AMOUNTING TO A CLEAR ERROR IN JUDGMENT EVIDENCING AN ABUSE OF DISCRETION[.]
Because neither of defendant's arguments is persuasive, we affirm his conviction.
We first address the suppression issue. The sole witness who testified at the suppression hearing was Mahwah Police Officer Christopher Fasulo. The record indicates that, on the morning in question, Officer Fasulo observed defendant's Mercedes parked in the lot of a Sheraton hotel at about 1:30 a.m. At that hour the bar and nightclub on the hotel premises were still open. The Mercedes was parked at an angle that made it difficult for other cars to get around it.
Officer Fasulo observed defendant leaning into the Mercedes with the driver's door open. The officer drew nearer, mindful that there had been a rash of car burglaries recently in the area. The officer activated the lights on his patrol car and also illuminated the interior of the Mercedes with a flashlight. As he approached the vehicle, the officer saw a glass stem on the passenger seat. He knew from his training and experience that such an object was commonly used to ingest crack cocaine. He also saw an insert to a pen, which, ...