On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Union County, Indictment No. 07-12-1068.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted December 6, 2010
Before Judges Grall and LeWinn.
Defendant was indicted, along with several co-defendants, on the following charges: two counts of third-degree possession of cocaine, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10(a)(1); second-degree possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5(a)(1) and -5(b)(2); third-degree possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5(a)(1) and -5(b)(3); and two counts of second-degree possession of cocaine within 500 feet of public housing, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7.1. All defendants brought a motion to suppress the drugs and, following a hearing, the judge denied the motion. Defendant thereupon pled guilty to all charges without any sentence recommendation by the State. On October 3, 2008, defendant was sentenced to an aggregate term of seven years' imprisonment with a three-and-half-year parole ineligibility period. He now appeals from the denial of his motion to suppress, raising the following contentions for our consideration:
THE COURT BELOW ERRED IN DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS BECAUSE THERE WAS NO CREDIBLE EVIDENCE THAT THE POLICE HAD COMPLIED WITH THE KNOCK AND ANNOUNCE REQUIREMENT OF THE SEARCH WARRANT.
THE MOTION TO SUPPRESS SHOULD HAVE BEEN GRANTED BECAUSE THE POLICE DID NOT WAIT A REASONABLE AMOUNT OF TIME BEFORE THEY FORCIBLY ENTERED DEFENDANT'S APARTMENT.
Having reviewed these contentions in light of the record, and in consideration of the controlling legal principles, we conclude that defendant's claims are without merit. We affirm substantially for the reasons stated by the motion judge in his written decision of July 29, 2008. We add the following comments.
Plainfield Police Officer Michael Caspersen testified that on August 9, 2007, at approximately 8:00 p.m., he went to apartment 1D at 116 Elmwood Place to execute a "knock and announce" search warrant on the premises; this apartment was known to the police to be defendant's residence. Caspersen was accompanied by "six or seven" officers on the "entry team."
Caspersen drove up to the building in a vehicle that, he stated, "was known throughout the city as a narcotics vehicle." When he exited the vehicle he "could hear people in the courtyard and around the building yelling [']jump out boys, jump out boys.[']" Caspersen took this to mean that people outside were trying to "[a]lert people in the area that narcotics officers were entering into the area."
Caspersen and other officers approached the door of apartment 1D. As one of the officers, Detective Black, was "banging with his hand yelling [']Plainfield Police search warrant,[']" Caspersen received a transmission on his police Nextel phone from an officer assigned to the exterior of the building "yelling [']they're jumping out the windows.[']" In addition, Caspersen heard what "sounded like commotion in the apartment . . . like furniture moving, . . . people running . . . ." He had not heard such noises "before the knock[.]"
Caspersen thereupon "rammed the door." He stated that everything happened "very rapidly[,]" and "[o]nce the transmission came across that they were jumping out the windows [he] executed." The "first thing" he saw inside the apartment was "like a flash of a body running. When [he] . . . hit the door . . . [he] could see the body . . . . [He] also could see a ...