On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Union County, Indictment Nos. 07-04-0301 and 06-03-0295A.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted October 4, 2011
Before Judges Carchman and Nugent.
Following his unsuccessful attempt to suppress drugs seized from him during a motor vehicle stop and the statement he gave to police following his arrest, defendant Albert Mas proceeded to trial. A jury convicted him of third-degree possession of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS), cocaine, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10(a)(1). At sentencing, the judge revoked defendant's four-year probationary sentence on a previous conviction of third-degree unlawful possession of a firearm, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5(b), and sentenced him to concurrent three-year prison terms on the drug conviction and the probation violation. Defendant raises the following points for our consideration on appeal:
THE DEFENDANT'S RIGHT TO BE FREE FROM UNREASONABLE SEARCHES AND SEIZURES AS GUARANTEED BY THE FOURTH AMENDMENT TO THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION AND ART. I, PAR. 7 OF THE NEW JERSEY CONSTITUTION WAS VIOLATED BY THE UNLAWFUL DETENTION OF THE PASSENGER. (Partially Raised Below)
THE DEFENDANT'S RIGHT TO DUE PROCESS OF LAW AS GUARANTEED BY THE FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT TO THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION AND ART. I, PAR. 1 OF THE NEW JERSEY CONSTITUTION WAS VIOLATED BY THE IMPROPER ADMISSION OF OTHER OFFENSES ALLEGEDLY COMMITTED BY THE DEFENDANT.
The testimony presented during the suppression hearing revealed the following facts. While on patrol shortly after midnight on December 28, 2006, Plainfield narcotics detective Michael Black and his partner stopped the driver of a speeding van. According to Black, he recognized the van's front seat passenger as defendant. Recalling that defendant had previously been arrested for drug and weapons offenses, and believing that a warrant existed for his arrest, Black confirmed the existence of the arrest warrant by checking with the police records bureau. After confirming the existence of the warrant, Black arrested defendant, searched him, and seized from his waistband a "quantity of . . . cooked up or base cocaine."
Black and his partner transported defendant to police headquarters where they began the "booking process" by asking defendant about his date of birth, height, weight, marital status, and employment. When asked if he was currently employed, defendant responded that "he quit his job and that's why he had the drugs in his possession and sells crack now."
A Union County grand jury indicted defendant and charged him with third-degree possession of a CDS, cocaine, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10(a)(1) (count one); third-degree possession of a CDS, cocaine, with intent to distribute, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5(a)(1) and N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5(b)(3) (count two); and third-degree possession of a CDS, cocaine, with intent to distribute within 500 feet of a public park, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7.1 (count three). Defendant subsequently filed a motion to suppress the drugs and his statement, which the court denied. Defendant proceeded to trial, and the jury convicted him on count one and acquitted him on the remaining counts. As we previously noted the court sentenced him to three years imprisonment and imposed appropriate fines and penalties. The court also revoked his probation on a previous weapons offense and sentenced him to a concurrent three-year prison term.
We first address defendant's contention in Point I that the police unlawfully detained him. He makes two arguments in support of his contention: first, the stop was "pretextual"; second, the police did not have an "articulable reasonable suspicion to believe that there was an outstanding warrant to justify [his] ...