On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Atlantic County, Indictment No. 08-02-0510.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Graves and J. N. Harris.
After his motion to suppress physical evidence was denied, defendant Jamar L. Corbitt entered guilty pleas to violations of fourth-degree obstructing administration of law or other governmental function, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-1, and second-degree certain persons not to have weapons, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-7(b). The sentencing judge imposed an aggregate term of eight years incarceration, with five years of parole ineligibility. Defendant now appeals, arguing the following points:
POINT I: THERE WAS NO LEGITIMATE REASON FOR THE POLICE TO STOP THE DEFENDANT INITIALLY (Not Raised Below).
POINT II: THE WARRANTLESS ENTRY INTO THE HOME WAS IMPROPER AS THE OFFICERS WERE NOT IN "HOT PURSUIT" AND NO EXIGENCY EXISTED. EVIDENCE RESULTING FROM THIS ILLEGAL ENTRY SHOULD HAVE BEEN SUPPRESSED.
POINT III: THE EIGHT-YEAR JAIL SENTENCE WITH PAROLE INELIGIBILITY OF FIVE YEARS FOR POSSESSION OF A WEAPON BY A CONVICTED PERSON IN THE SECOND DEGREE WAS MANIFESTLY EXCESSIVE.
On January 22, 2008, Atlantic City Police Officer James Herbert responded to a call directing him to the vicinity of 227 Rosemont Place, after receiving information over his police radio of an armed person in the area. The suspect was described as a black male wearing dark blue jeans and a black jacket. One week earlier, there was a homicide involving a shooting in front of that same address.
Shortly after Officer Herbert arrived on the scene, he was joined by Police Officer Dean Dooley, along with Dooley's canine partner. Just before Officer Dooley arrived, Officer Herbert exited his patrol vehicle, and began carefully to look for a person matching the description of the armed male. As he was walking along, alertly scanning the nearby buildings and playground, the officer observed defendant, who fit the description obtained from the radio communication. As he approached defendant and made eye contact, Officer Herbert distinctly noticed defendant's facial expression, describing it as "shocked to see an officer's presence." The police officer also observed that defendant "had [placed] his left hand... inside his jacket pocket" after coming face to face with the police officer, which indicated to Officer Herbert that defendant may have been concealing a weapon.
Concerned for his safety because he could not see both of defendant's hands, Officer Herbert told defendant to take his hand out of his pocket. Instead of complying with this request, defendant immediately fled, with "his left hand still in his pocket and he was leaning as if there's some or trying to protect something on his left side, almost leaning over to it." Thereupon Officer Herbert ordered defendant to stop, but he failed to comply, impelling a chase.
By this time, Officer Dooley was also on foot in the area. As he heard the other police officer's command for defendant to stop, he observed defendant "run up the stoop, grabbing his left side and then enter 227 Rosemont [Place]." The police officers immediately met outside the residence to discuss their next course of action. As other police officers were arriving, they "started to try and get like a plan together to enter into the residence because a male is ...