On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Cumberland County, Indictment No. 09-08-1914.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Messano and Yannotti.
After his motion to suppress evidence was denied, defendant William D. Rowley pled guilty to third-degree unlawful possession of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS), contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10(a)(1). Defendant appeals from the judgment of conviction entered on June 11, 2010. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.
At approximately 7:45 a.m. on June 21, 2009, the Margate police received a call reporting that a man was asleep on a bus and could not be awakened. Officer Jennifer Queeney (Queeney) responded to the bus stop and spoke to the driver. She attempted to wake the sleeping passenger by touching his shoulder and shaking him slightly. Queeney identified defendant as the passenger.
Defendant did not wake up. Queeney continued to try to wake defendant by shaking him harder and raising her voice to the point where she was yelling at him. He did not wake up. This continued for about five minutes. Queeney was concerned. She also detected the odor of alcohol "coming off" of defendant, which made her worried for his safety.
Eventually, defendant awakened. According to Queeney, defendant was incoherent. He was not sure of where he was. Queeney believed that he was intoxicated. She said that his eyes were droopy and bloodshot, and his clothes "were a little disheveled." Queeney asked defendant several times if he would give her his name. He was reluctant but eventually said his name was "William Williams." He also gave her a date of birth. Queeney gave this information to Officer Lee (Lee), who attempted to confirm the name and birth date, but he could not do so.
At some point, Queeney and defendant exited the bus. Lee and Officer Francis Marciante (Marciante) attempted to get a different name and date of birth from defendant. Defendant was "reluctant and evasive" with Lee and Marciante. Defendant stated that he had already given Queeney the information.
The officers checked a social security number that defendant had provided, but no information came back on the mobile computer in the car or from the police dispatcher. Defendant told the police he had a California driver's license. Using their mobile computer terminals, the officers checked motor vehicle records in California. Nothing came back on "William Williams."
The officers also ran computer checks for New Jersey databases, and the dispatcher checked other computer databases, including the National Crime Information Center (NCIC). They were not able to confirm the information that defendant had provided. The officers asked defendant to "be honest with" them, but they "basically got the same information back[.]" The officers said that if defendant had provided accurate information, it would have been confirmed through the computer checks.
Lee and Marciante decided to take defendant back to the police station "to figure out who he was." Queeney transported him there. As a safety measure, defendant was handcuffed in the police car. The police had not charged defendant with any offenses at that point. Queeney said that defendant "was just being held . . . for identity purposes." She also said that the officers were not investigating any criminal activity.
Queeney further testified that the officers wanted to know who defendant was because he was in a "highly intoxicated" state and they did not want "to let him go and wander off by himself." The officers were also concerned that defendant might have some mental impairment. Queeney said that defendant could have been in danger. She stated that, as a police officer, her duty was to ensure that the individual she is dealing with is safe and "gets to where they need to go, [so] that no danger occurs to them." At the station, Queeney turned defendant over to Lee and Marciante.
Marciante testified that defendant was taken to the police station because they were making further efforts to learn his identity, and because they were concerned that he was impaired. Marciante said that it is "not a good idea" for a community caretaker to let individuals in that condition wander the streets. He said, "Something could happen to them and then it's on us." ...