On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Essex County, Docket No. FJ-07-3275-09.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ashrafi, J.S.C. (temporarily assigned).
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted December 15, 2009
Before Judges Carchman, Parrillo and Ashrafi.
In this juvenile delinquency matter, we granted the State leave to appeal the order of the Family Part denying waiver of jurisdiction and referral of the charges to the Criminal Part for prosecution. We agree with the State that the undisputed evidence presented at the waiver hearing was sufficient to establish probable cause to conclude that the seventeen-year-old juvenile, T.M., possessed firearms while in possession of heroin with intent to distribute. Therefore, the Family Part was required by Rule 5:22-2(c)(3)(C) and N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-26e to grant the State's application. We reverse the Family Part's order of April 23, 2009.
On March 20, 2009, the Essex County Prosecutor's Office filed a juvenile delinquency complaint against T.M. charging the following offenses: (a) third-degree possession of heroin, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10; (b) third-degree possession of heroin with intent to distribute, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5; (c) third-degree possession of heroin with intent to distribute within 1,000 feet of a school, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7; (d) two counts of second-degree unlawful possession of a handgun, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5b; (e) second-degree possession of handguns for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4; (f) second-degree unlawful possession of a handgun while engaging in narcotics crimes, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4.1; (g) fourth-degree unlawful possession of hollow-point bullets, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-3f; and (h) third-degree possession of heroin with intent to distribute within 500 feet of public housing, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7.1.
In its application under Rule 5:22-2, the State argued several grounds for referral of T.M. for prosecution as an adult, but the most direct ground was that T.M. was charged with a violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4.1, possession of firearms while committing a narcotics distribution offense, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5. Under Rule 5:22-2(c)(3)(C), the prosecutor is granted discretion to refer a juvenile for adult prosecution if he is at least sixteen years old and charged with violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4.1. The prosecutor need only show probable cause for the charge; no additional showing is necessary.
N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-26e; R. 5:22-2(c)(3); State v. J.M., 182 N.J. 402, 412 (2005).
The Family Part held a waiver hearing on April 23, 2009, to determine probable cause. The only witness at the hearing was Detective Philip Turzani of the Newark Police Department, Central Narcotics Division.
The detective testified that on March 13, 2009, he was the backup for an undercover narcotics detective who made a purchase of illegal drugs near the Oscar Miles Housing Complex in Newark. T.M. was not present or involved in the sale. The undercover detective requested cocaine from a young man. The unidentified young man entered a single-family dwelling using a key and returned with two vials of a suspected controlled dangerous substance (CDS), which he gave to the undercover detective in exchange for $20.
A few days later, Detective Turzani obtained a search warrant on the basis of the undercover buy on March 13 for the single-family dwelling from which the CDS had been retrieved. The police had also learned from records of the Newark Housing Authority, which subsidized the rent on that dwelling, that it was leased to Christine Nelson and occupied by her and her children and grandchildren. Besides Nelson, other listed residents were twenty-three-year-old Nikita M. and her three children, ages two through seven; twenty-year-old Erica M.; and seventeen-year-old T.M. Newark Police executed the search warrant at about 9:30 p.m. on March 20, 2009.
Upon forcing the door and entering the house, the police found the three adult women and the three children in the home. T.M. was not present. Erica M. was found and secured on the third floor. Christine Nelson identified a rear bedroom on the third floor as T.M.'s room. Teenage-style male clothing and other items in the bedroom were consistent with occupancy by the only male resident of ...