On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Indictment No. 09-01-0042.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted January 23, 2012 -
Before Judges Sabatino and Ashrafi.
Defendant Anthony Drew appeals the trial court's denial of his motion to suppress the contents of a bag obtained by the police without a warrant from a car in which he was a passenger.
The car was searched with the oral consent of the driver, but not that of defendant.
The search and seizure occurred in connection with a motor vehicle stop in East Orange on August 8, 2008. The police dispatch in East Orange received a call that night reporting a dispute between a grandson and a grandfather. The dispute allegedly involved a weapon. The dispatcher passed on the information to an East Orange patrol officer, Crystal Powell.
Powell was the sole witness who testified at the suppression hearing. At the time of her testimony, Powell had been employed by the police department for fourteen years. She was working alone on the night of the incident.
According to Powell's testimony, she drove her squad car to the location of the reported disturbance. When she arrived, she was given a description of the grandson. The description identified him as a black male with long braids, wearing a white T-shirt and blue jean shorts.
As Powell pulled up, she observed a male matching the grandson's description "running out" of the location. She then saw him "jumping into a vehicle." Powell noticed that he was holding a bag, although she did not see a weapon.
Powell followed the vehicle and pulled it over about a block or a block-and-a-half away from the grandfather's residence. The vehicle had three occupants: a driver, a front-seat passenger, and a rear-seat passenger. Defendant was the passenger in the rear seat.
After back-up officers arrived, the police first removed defendant from the stopped car and secured him in the back of Powell's patrol car. The officers removed defendant first because of the report that he might be armed. The driver, Rory Thornton, and the front-seat passenger were also removed. Apparently, Thornton was placed in a patrol car different from the one in which defendant was placed.
According to Powell, while Thornton was being detained in the other patrol car, he gave one of the officers his "verbal consent"*fn1 for the police to search the interior of the car. Powell contended that Thornton also provided written consent to the search, although no copy of such written consent was produced by the State at the hearing, and Powell conceded that she never saw the alleged written consent. Powell did not identify the other officer who obtained Thornton's oral consent. She also admitted that she had not overheard the conversation between the other officer and Thornton in which Thornton supposedly gave oral consent to the search.
Based upon the driver's consent, the police went into the car without a warrant and recovered a bag containing a handgun, marijuana, and a ...