On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Cumberland County, Indictment No. 10-04-0262.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Grall and LeWinn.
The State appeals, on leave granted,*fn1 from the January 3, 2011 order granting defendant's motion to suppress drugs seized from his automobile following his arrest as well as statements he made at the arrest scene. We affirm.
Vineland Police Detective Angel Mercano, along with Detectives Ferrari and Ortiz, was riding in unmarked police vehicle around 5:00 p.m. on November 3, 2009. The officers stopped defendant's automobile for speeding. Ferrari approached the driver's side and Mercano approached the passenger side. Defendant, who had been driving, attempted to exit the automobile; Ferrari asked him to get back in and he complied. Defendant was able to produce an insurance card and registration, but not a driver's license. Ferrari learned defendant's name by asking him for his "identifiers."
A warrant check revealed an outstanding warrant for defendant's arrest. Mercano and Ortiz placed defendant under arrest; they searched him and found a "large sum of money" on his person. Defendant was handcuffed and taken to the police vehicle. At this time Mercano was standing outside the driver's door talking to Brian Dawkins who was sitting in the front passenger seat. Mercano testified that he was "in between the open door and . . . bending down." He observed "a sandwich bag in between the door jamb and the seat," and could see that it contained "[s]maller, clear plastic bags with [a] white substance in them."
Mercano picked up the bag and "was about to ask . . . Ortiz to arrest . . . Dawkins and [defendant] screamed from the back[:] 'That's my drugs. It's not his.'"
On cross-examination, the following colloquy ensued:
Q. Were you leaning in to talk to Mr. Dawkins?
Q. You were bent down? And were you leaning in so that you could talk to him?
A. No. Not leaning in the car, no.
Q. So you were bent down but ...