On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Indictment No. 07-10-3670.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Sapp-Peterson and Simonelli.
Following a jury trial, defendant Terrel Bridges was convicted of third-degree possession of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS), N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10a(1); third-degree possession of CDS with intent to distribute, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5a(1); third-degree possession of CDS with intent to distribute within 1000 feet of a school, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7; and fourth-degree hindering apprehension, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-3b(4). The trial judge sentenced defendant to an aggregate ten-year term of imprisonment with five years of parole ineligibility, and imposed the appropriate assessments, penalties, and fees.
On appeal, defendant raises the following contentions:
THE TRIAL COURT'S REFUSAL TO CONDUCT AN EVIDENTIARY HEARING ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS DEPRIVED DEFENDANT OF HIS DUE PROCESS RIGHT TO A FULL AND FAIR DETERMINATION OF HIS MOTION
EXPERT TESTIMONY THAT DEFENDANT HAD ENGAGED IN "AN ILLEGAL HAND-TO-HAND TRANSACTION FOR NARCOTICS" AND THAT THIS CONCLUSION
WAS BASED ON "REVIEWING ALL THE EVIDENCE IN THIS INVESTIGATION" IMPERMISSIBLY INVADED THE PROVINCE OF THE JURY
THE TRIAL COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION IN SENTENCING DEFENDANT TO THE MAXIMUM TEN-YEAR TERM WITH FIVE YEARS OF PAROLE INELIGIBILITY BECAUSE A QUALITATIVE WEIGHING OF THE AGGRAVATING AND MITIGATING FACTORS DOES NOT SUPPORT SUCH A SENTENCE We hold that defendant is entitled to an evidentiary hearing on his motion to suppress because of a material factual dispute as to how the police recovered the narcotics found in defendant's car. We also hold that defendant is entitled to a new trial because the State's expert's testimony improperly invaded the province of the jury to decide the ultimate question of defendant's guilt. Accordingly, we reverse and remand for an evidentiary hearing on defendant's motion to suppress and a new trial.
I.We derive the following facts from the evidence presented at trial. At approximately 1:30 p.m. on July 31, 2007, Detectives Reginald Holloway, Darryl Robinson, and Tracey Bennett of the Essex County Sheriff's Department Bureau of Narcotics were conducting surveillance from a van in the area of Renner Avenue and Goodwin Avenue in ...