On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Cape May County, Indictment No. 07-09-0583.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Cuff and Waugh.
Defendant Christopher Felix appeals his conviction, following a guilty plea, for possession of a controlled dangerous substance, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10(a)(1), as well as the resulting sentence of imprisonment for five years with a period of parole ineligibility of one year and five days. We reverse.
The applicable facts, developed at the hearing on Felix's motion to suppress evidence, can be briefly stated. On May 26, 2007, at approximately 10:15 a.m., Wildwood Police Officer David Holman was dispatched to investigate a report from a real estate office that there were trespassers at a house located on West 26th Street in Wildwood that had been listed for sale and was under contract. When he arrived at the house, Felix was on the sidewalk. Holman began questioning Felix about his reasons for being at the property.
Shortly thereafter, Sergeant James Nanos arrived as backup. He was familiar with the house because he lived across the street and had been called there several times with respect to drug activity. He testified as follows with respect to his role:
Q: Upon observing that individual engaged in conversation with Officer Holman what did you do?
A: I walked up to the two of them and began to listen as Officer Holman was asking the subject for his name. There was a short conversation as to whether the subject lived there or was visiting friends there. And then I interjected myself into the conversation.
Q: Being somebody who actually lives in that area had you even seen Mr. Felix around that residence before?
Q: What did you ask him, if anything, and at what time?
A: I initially confirmed that he was supposed to be on the property. Pretty much asked the same questions as Officer Holman did. And at one point I asked him if he had anything illegal on his person.
Q: How did he respond, if at all?
A: He said he did and handed me a package, a ...