On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Warren County, Indictment No. 08-08-00300-I.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted February 3, 2010
Before Judges Payne and Waugh.
The State appeals, by leave granted, from an order suppressing the evidence obtained by the New Jersey State Police from searches conducted without a warrant and, later, with a warrant at the condominium residence of defendant, Steven Bloom.
As the result of the searches, defendant has been charged with ten counts of second-degree possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-7b, one count of third-degree unlawful possession of an assault firearm, N.J.S.A. 2C:339-5f, one count of fourth-degree possession of a large capacity ammunition magazine, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-3j, one count of third-degree possession of a destructive device, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-3a, one count of third-degree possession of a controlled dangerous substance, Methamphetamine, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10(a)(1), and one count of third-degree possession of a controlled dangerous substance, Methadone, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10(a).
On appeal, the State raises the following arguments for our consideration:
THE TROOPERS LAWFULLY ENTERED THE RESIDENCE AFTER BEING INVITED INSIDE BY THE DEFENDANT.
THE OBSERVATION OF THE GUN CASE IN CLOSE PROXIMITY TO THE DEFENDANT PROVIDED THE OFFICER WITH REASONABLE SUSPICION THAT THE DEFENDANT WAS ARMED AND DANGEROUS.
THE REMAINING EVIDENCE WAS IN PLAIN VIEW.
The events giving rise to this matter took place on March 10, 2008. According to the record of the suppression hearing held in this matter, at 8:00 that morning, a neighbor living across the street from defendant made a noise complaint to the State Police, which had jurisdiction over the area, arising from conduct that had occurred at defendant's residence at approximately 2:00 a.m., but thereafter had ceased. Three patrol officers in three separate cars responded to the complaint: Trooper Nugnes, Trooper Serowick and Trooper Miller. Trooper Nugnes led the investigation and was the only person to testify on the State's behalf at the suppression hearing regarding the events occurring on March 10. He testified that, upon arriving at the condominium complex where the complainant and defendant resided, Nugnes first went to the complainant's residence and spoke to her. The troopers then proceeded to defendant's residence. Nugnes testified on direct examination that the troopers rang defendant's doorbell. Defendant then came outside, Nugnes attempted to explain why the troopers were there, and defendant "at that time asked us to come in." Nugnes observed that it was cold that morning, and defendant was barefoot. On cross-examination, Nugnes added that defendant had first put his dogs in their cages before he had stepped outside.
A picture marked as a defense exhibit at trial discloses that the front door to the condominium was in a recess in the front of the building. The door itself had a fan light in the uppermost portion of the door's three panels. Directly inside the door was a hallway, with a kitchen to the right. The hallway led to a unified space consisting of the dining room and then the living room. A pass-through had been cut on the common wall between the kitchen and the dining room, and a thermostat was located on that wall at a position that could not be viewed from the front door or the hall.
The living room contained a couch facing the back wall of the condominium and a smaller sofa placed at right angles to the couch on its left. A small coffee table was located in front of the couch. The room ...