On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Docket Nos. 07-09-3152 and 08-03-0837.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted February 29, 2012 - Before Judges Cuff and Waugh.
Defendant Andre Mins appeals from his conviction, following a guilty plea, on one count of first-degree possession of five ounces or more of cocaine with intent to distribute, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5(b)(1), from Essex Indictment No. 07-09-3152 and one count of second-degree possession of heroin with intent to distribute, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5(a)(1), from Essex County Indictment No. 08-03-0837. He also appeals his sentence. We affirm.
We discern the following relevant facts and procedural history from the record on appeal.
Indictment No. 07-09-3152 arose out of events that occurred on May 23, 2007.*fn1 Because Mins' appeal focuses primarily on the denial of his motion to suppress the evidence related to that indictment, we recite the facts adduced at the suppression hearing held on July 17, 2008.
Sergeant Carla Hatcher of the East Orange Police Department testified on behalf of the State. On May 23, 2007, Hatcher arrived at headquarters to respond to a woman's claim that, during a physical altercation with Mins at his apartment, he "pulled a gun on her" and "[s]truck her with the gun." However, during cross-examination, when asked whether any officer obtained Mins' name prior to proceeding to his apartment, Hatcher answered, "I'm not certain."
Hatcher and five other officers subsequently proceeded to Mins' apartment. The officers brought the victim with them in order to locate Mins' apartment. Hatcher, accompanied by three of the other officers, approached Mins' front door, while the remaining two officers monitored the back of the apartment complex to prevent Mins from fleeing.
After Hatcher and the officers knocked on the front door, Hatcher heard someone inside the apartment ask, "Who is it?" The officers identified themselves as police, to which the unidentified person answered, "Okay, babe, give me a second." The person did not open the door immediately, and while the officers waited, they heard "noises in the apartment," including "some rummaging" and "a loud bang." Mins eventually came to the door. After the officers stated the reason for their presence, he "allowed" them to enter his apartment.
Once inside the apartment, the officers instructed Mins to place his hands on his head so they could determine if he possessed a weapon. Hatcher testified that the officers did this for their own safety. When questioned, Mins informed the police that he was alone in the apartment.
Nevertheless, Hatcher testified that concerns for their own safety led the officers to scan the apartment visually for other individuals. Hatcher saw what she recognized to be drug paraphernalia on the kitchen table, including empty bottles with red tops in a cardboard box and two scales with white residue.
After observing the drug paraphernalia, other officers entered the kitchen and found several razors with what they believed was drug residue, vials with colored tops, a bottle which contained yellow fluid and was similar to those found on the table, a calculator, and a plate with what appeared to be drug residue. Hatcher testified that another officer advised defendant of his rights prior to his arrest.
Officer Muhammad Thomas, one of the two officers positioned outside in the rear of Mins' apartment, testified that he "heard a crash," then saw an air conditioner on the ground. As Thomas radioed the officers inside the building to inform them, he saw a white plastic bag come out of the window of an apartment, which was later identified as Mins' apartment. According to Thomas, he ...