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State of New Jersey v. James J. Eichele

April 14, 2011

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
JAMES J. EICHELE, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Ocean County, Indictment No. 08-12-1851.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted March 21, 2011

Before Judges Lisa and Ostrer.

After his suppression motion was denied, defendant pled guilty, pursuant to a plea agreement, to four counts in the indictment against him, namely, (1) third-degree attempted burglary, N.J.S.A. 2C:18-2 and N.J.S.A. 2C:5-1; (2) third-degree burglary, N.J.S.A. 2C:18-2; (3) third-degree receiving stolen property, N.J.S.A. 2C:20-7; and (4) second-degree possession of a weapon by a previously convicted person, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-7b(1). For the second-degree offense, defendant was sentenced as a persistent offender to an extended term of fifteen years imprisonment with a five-year parole disqualifier. See N.J.S.A. 2C:44-3a and N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7a(3). The judge imposed five-year terms of imprisonment for each of the third-degree offenses, concurrent with each other and concurrent with the sentence for the second-degree offense. Therefore, defendant's aggregate sentence is fifteen years imprisonment with a five-year parole disqualifier.

Defendant argues on appeal:

POINT I

THE TRIAL JUDGE SHOULD HAVE GRANTED DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS BECAUSE THE SEARCH WARRANT WAS NOT SUPPORTED BY PROBABLE CAUSE TO BELIEVE THAT DEFENDANT'S HOME OR PERSONAL EFFECTS CONTAINED FRUITS OR EVIDENCE OF OTHER BURGLARIES.

POINT II THE SENTENCING JUDGE ERRED IN IMPOSING AN EXTENDED TERM.

We reject these arguments and affirm.

The evidence that was the subject of defendant's suppression motion was seized from his residence pursuant to a search warrant. Defendant argues that the affidavit submitted in support of the search warrant application contained insufficient information to establish probable cause that evidence of a crime would be found in his home. What follows is a brief summary of the information contained in the affidavit.

On the night of September 26, 2008, the police caught defendant attempting to break into a residence at 5 Cascade Court in an age-restricted senior community in Brick Township known as Green Briar II. Defendant was wearing black gloves and had in his possession a flat-tip screwdriver and a small flashlight. A police tracking dog was brought to the scene and traced defendant's steps to another residence in the development, at 124 South Everest Drive, where it was determined that another burglary had occurred. The rear sliding door at that residence had been forced open. Some items of jewelry found on defendant's person were identified by the occupant of 124 South Everest Drive as items stolen from her residence. Defendant identified his vehicle, which was parked in an adjoining neighborhood. The vehicle was registered to defendant's live-in girlfriend.

Prior to the night of defendant's apprehension, multiple similar burglaries had occurred in the same area. Between September 2005 and September 26, 2008, at least 216 burglaries had been committed in ten communities in Middlesex, Monmouth and Ocean Counties, which bore the same modus operandi (M.O.). The affidavit described in detail the common M.O. The burglaries occurred in age-restricted senior communities on Fridays or Saturdays. The residence was usually located along a wood line which backed up to a major road or parking lot. The perpetrator would gain entry by prying a rear window, door or sliding door with what appeared to be a screwdriver or flat-edged tool. The perpetrator would remove only cash, jewelry and other items of high value, leaving behind traceable items or those of lesser value.

As a result of this string of burglaries, law enforcement officials in the affected communities formed a task force. On the night defendant was apprehended, twenty-eight officers were working as part of this task force. They were positioned at locations that the perpetrator had previously accessed and similar locations in the area. Through this surveillance, defendant was observed and apprehended. The affiant concluded that, based on his training and experience, "individuals involved in burglaries and ...


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