On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Monmouth County, Indictment No. 07-09-2052.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted November 2, 2009
Before Judges Rodríguez and Chambers.
After defendant Lisa Gallopo's motion to suppress evidence was denied, she entered a guilty plea to third degree conspiracy to possess a controlled dangerous substance (CDS), N.J.S.A. 2C:5-2 and N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10a(1), and to the disorderly persons offense of wandering, N.J.S.A. 2C:33-2.1. In exchange, the State agreed to recommend a probationary sentence and to dismiss several summonses. At the plea hearing, defendant admitted that on May 3, 2007, she had agreed with another person to hold pills in her purse, which she knew to be CDS. She also admitted that she did not have the required prescription for the CDS. Judge Edward M. Neafsey imposed a one-year term of probation.
On appeal, defendant contends:
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS THE WARRANTLESS SEARCH AND SEIZURE CONDUCTED BY DETECTIVE O'CONNOR SINCE A REASONABLE AND ARTICULABLE BASIS TO SUSPECT CRIMINAL WRONGDOING DID NOT EXIST.
These are the proofs presented at the hearing on the motion to suppress, at which Keansburg Police Detective John O'Connor was the sole witness. He testified that on May 3, 2007, he was on duty in an unmarked police car. However, he was wearing a shirt with the word "police" appearing on both sleeves and on the front chest and back of his shirt. O'Connor was involved in a motor vehicle stop, unrelated to this case. He had eighteen years of experience in police work and had participated in over 500 narcotics arrests. At that time, he saw a pickup truck traveling directly in front of police headquarters on Carr Avenue. O'Connor saw defendant, who was thirty-three years old at the time, leaning out of the front passenger window.
O'Connor was familiar with defendant because she had been the "target of an investigation for narcotics." O'Connor concluded that defendant could not have been wearing a seat belt. He followed the pickup truck in his vehicle. The pickup truck stopped in a parking lot adjacent to a convenience store. O'Connor stopped his car about one-hundred feet away. According to O'Connor, the convenience store is known to him as "a high drug trafficking area."
Using binoculars, O'Connor saw a man, later identified as Christopher Chadichimo, walk up to the passenger side of the pickup truck. Chadichimo handed currency to defendant.
It was a hand-to-hand transaction. Using the binoculars I had a clear view. As he reached by the windows, the defendant grabbed with her right hand, the exchange was made. He pulled his hand away; she pulled her hand away.
On cross-examination, O'Connor admitted that the transaction he witnessed was a one-sided transfer. In short, Chadichimo gave money to defendant, but did not get anything in return. O'Connor radioed his backup unit that he would be making a motor vehicle stop. He pulled his vehicle in back of the pickup truck in the parking lot of the convenience store. O'Connor approached defendant and asked her for her credentials. O'Connor noticed that the front windshield of the pickup truck had a crack in it. Therefore, he also asked the driver, Terrence Darragh, for his credentials. Darragh handed over his credentials. According to O'Connor, Darragh "reached under a shirt that was on the front seat, and by covering up his hand I didn't know if he was reaching for a weapon of some sort or trying to secret evidence." O'Connor ordered Darragh out of the vehicle. Darragh told O'Connor that Chadichimo was paying him money that he ...