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Ralph Sowell v. Department of Corrections

SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY APPELLATE DIVISION


May 23, 2011

RALPH SOWELL, APPELLANT,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, RESPONDENT.

On appeal from the New Jersey Department of Corrections.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted March 8, 2011

Before Judges Wefing and Payne.

Appellant is an inmate in the custody of the Commissioner of the Department of Corrections. He appeals from a disciplinary adjudication, finding him guilty of a *.204 offense, use of narcotics. After reviewing the record in light of the contentions advanced on appeal, we affirm.

On January 3, 2009, following a contact visit, Ralph Sowell was captured on tape with his hand in his pants, seemingly placing something in his rectum. Corrections officers suspected either a cell phone or narcotics. He was strip searched, and nothing was found. He was then placed in a "dry cell" in the infirmary under 24-hour observation. On January 5, Sowell requested an x-ray of his abdomen. On January 6, before the results of that x-ray were known, a urine sample was sought, which was positive for opiates. The following day, on January 7, the x-ray was reported as negative. Sowell was then charged with *.204 use of narcotics.

A courtline hearing was conducted, at which time Sowell argued through counsel substitute that the prison lacked probable cause to obtain the urine sample. Sowell did not contest that the urine was his or argue that the test results were incorrect. Sowell was found guilty of the charge and disciplined with ten days of detention, 225 days of administrative segregation, 225 days loss of commutation time, permanent loss of contact visits, 35 days loss of visit privileges, and 365 days of urine monitoring.

Defendant argues on appeal that this disciplinary decision should be vacated because there was no probable cause to require him to produce a urine sample for analysis. We have set forth the chronology of the events that led to this urine test. Based upon the observation of defendant seeming to place something in his pants at the conclusion of a contact visit, there were ample grounds to order him to produce a urine sample. We consider his argument that probable cause did not exist to lack sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(D).

Affirmed.

20110523

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