On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Hudson County, Indictment No. 09-08-1395.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted February 7, 2012 -
Before Judges Fisher and Baxter.
After unsuccessfully moving to suppress evidence seized from his automobile, defendant pled guilty to third-degree possession of heroin with the intent to distribute within 1,000 feet of school property, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7, and was sentenced to a five-year prison term with a thirty-three-month period of parole ineligibility.
Defendant appeals, seeking review only of the denial of his suppression motion and arguing in a single point:
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN DENYING DEFENDANT'S SUPPRESSION MOTION WHERE DEFENDANT'S STOP AND ARREST WERE UNLAWFUL BECAUSE THE POLICE OFFICERS LACKED REASONABLE SUSPICION OF CRIMINAL ACTIVITY SUFFICIENT TO JUSTIFY THEIR ACTIONS.
We find insufficient merit in this argument to warrant discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(2). We add only the following brief comments.
Defendant moved for the suppression of evidence seized from his automobile after it was detained by a Jersey City police officer. To develop the relevant facts, Judge Kevin G. Callahan conducted an evidentiary hearing at which only the police officer was called to testify. In finding the officer credible, Judge Callahan concluded that the officer, who knew defendant and was aware his driving privileges had been suspended, confirmed that fact through the database available to him in his police cruiser. The check of the database was permissible because such a check does not constitute a search under either the federal or state constitutions. State v. Sloane, 193 N.J. 423, 436 (2008). Having confirmed from the check that defendant's driving privileges were suspended, the officer's stop of the automobile was reasonable. Id. at 437.*fn1 Once the stop was effected, the police officer approached the automobile, observed defendant smoking a marijuana blunt, and smelled burning marijuana -- circumstances establishing probable cause to arrest defendant and search the automobile.
State v. Nishina, 175 N.J. 502, 515-16 (2003). Bags of marijuana and heroin in the automobile were observed in plain view by other officers, further enhancing probable cause for the search and seizure that followed. State v. Mann, 203 N.J. 328, 340-41 (2010).*fn2 A search warrant was thereafter obtained, the vehicle impounded and searched, and additional controlled dangerous substances found.
Judge Callahan correctly concluded that the stop of the automobile, and the search for and seizure of evidence from the automobile, were entirely reasonable and constitutionally permissible.