On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County, Indictment No. 08-05-0897.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted January 25, 2011 -- Decided Before Judges Yannotti and Skillman.
Defendant James H. Currie was charged under Middlesex County Indictment No. 08-05-0897 with second-degree certain persons not to have weapons, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:39-7(b). After his motion to suppress was denied, defendant pled guilty to the offense and was sentenced to five years of incarceration, with a five-year period of parole ineligibility. He appeals from the judgment of conviction dated March 4, 2009. We affirm.
Testimony presented at the hearing on defendant's suppression motion revealed the following. At approximately 9:45 p.m. on March 23, 2008, New Brunswick police officers Amish Shah (Shah) and Brad Burdell (Burdell) were patrolling the area near Suydam Street. Shah testified that this is a high crime area, where there have been many drug arrests and weapons found.
While driving down Suydam Street, Shah and Burdell noticed a blue Ford Taurus, which was accelerating quickly and being driven erratically. According to Shah, the driver of the Taurus made an illegal U-turn in an erratic manner, near the corner of Lee Avenue and Suydam Street. Another vehicle had to stop abruptly to avoid a collision.
Shah and Burdell pulled the Taurus over and activated the emergency lights on their police vehicle. Burdell approached the driver's side and Shah approached the passenger side of the car.
Defendant was in the driver's seat and co-defendant Danette Weeks (Weeks) was in the front passenger seat. Burdell asked defendant for his license, vehicle registration and insurance card.
According to Shah, the defendant's teeth were clenched. He mumbled something that was not understandable. Burdell again asked defendant for his license, registration and insurance card. Defendant said that he did not have any paperwork because his mother owned the car. Burdell asked defendant if he had any kind of identification, and defendant replied that he did not.
Burdell asked defendant to state his name and date of birth so that he could determine if he had a driver's license. Defendant mumbled again and said that his license was suspended. According to Shah, defendant's teeth were "clenched down" and he was mumbling as he was "trying to respond" to the officer's inquiries.
Burdell observed a piece of a plastic bag protruding from defendant's mouth. Burdell asked defendant to exit the vehicle. Defendant got out and the officers had him face the vehicle. In response to further inquiry, defendant gave his name and date of birth. Shah observed what appeared to be a lump under defendant's bottom lip. The officers questioned defendant about the piece of plastic protruding from his mouth.
Before defendant could respond, he began to cough and spit out two small plastic bags, which appeared to contain marijuana. Shah said that, based on his training and experience, he believed that they were two "dime bags," each with a street value of ten dollars. Defendant was placed under arrest.
Shah said that defendant was upset, but he was placed in the police vehicle without a struggle. Burdell walked to the passenger side of the vehicle and asked Weeks whether she had a license to drive. She said that she did not. Shah asked her to step out of the vehicle.
As Weeks exited the vehicle, Shah observed what appeared to be the barrel of a handgun on the floor of the car, protruding from underneath the passenger seat. Shah said he was standing at the door of the passenger side of the vehicle when he made that observation. ...