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State of New Jersey v. Jose Vasquez

April 11, 2012

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
JOSE VASQUEZ, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Monmouth County, Indictment No. 10-03-0463.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted March 21, 2012

Before Judges Fuentes, Koblitz and Haas.

After his motion to suppress was denied, defendant Jose Vasquez pled guilty to third-degree conspiracy to possess cocaine, N.J.S.A. 2C:5-2 and N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10(a)(1). He was sentenced to one year of probation. Defendant appeals the denial of his motion to suppress. We affirm.

I.

At 11:00 p.m. on December 16, 2009, Elisa Martinez, an Ocean Township police officer, responded to a Dunkin' Donuts store on State Highway 35 to investigate a report of a disorderly person.

When Martinez arrived at the store, she observed defendant standing in the corner. Martinez spoke to the store owner, who told her that defendant had entered the store with a beer bottle and had refused to leave. Defendant had then dropped the bottle and it shattered on the floor. The broken glass had already been swept up by store employees, but Martinez saw that the floor was wet.

Martinez spoke to defendant. He appeared to be intoxicated. Defendant was slurring his words, his eyes were bloodshot and he was swaying. Martinez smelled alcohol on his breath.

Martinez asked defendant for identification, but he said that he did not have any. He was able to provide Martinez with his name and a birth date,*fn1 but he could not provide his social security number. He also denied having a home address or a telephone number.

Martinez observed a bulge, which appeared to be a wallet, in defendant's rear pants pocket. Martinez testified that, on service calls such as this one, she will attempt to locate the citizen's identification. Here, her intent was also to use the identification to issue defendant a summons for having an open container of alcohol in violation of a municipal ordinance. If the identification was not located, Martinez testified that she intended to arrest defendant and take him to headquarters to be fingerprinted in order to learn his identity. However, Martinez also acknowledged that she had the discretion not to issue the citation and that she could have simply removed defendant from the premises.

Martinez patted the outside of defendant's pocket to see if the bulge was a wallet. She felt a round, hard object. Based upon her training and experience, Martinez believed that the object was a tied-off plastic bag containing illegal drugs. She reached into the pocket and found a plastic bag of suspected cocaine and a stack of folded paper napkins. Martinez arrested defendant. As he was being transported to the police station, defendant provided his correct birth date and social security number.

The motion court denied defendant's motion to suppress, finding that Martinez had probable cause to arrest defendant for a number of disorderly persons offenses at the time she searched his pocket. The court found that defendant could have been charged with hindering apprehension, for providing Martinez with false information, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-3(b)(4),*fn2 disorderly conduct, for breaking a beer bottle in the store, N.J.S.A. 2C:33-2(a)(2), or defiant trespass, for refusing to leave the store, N.J.S.A. 2C:18-3(b). Because ...


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