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State of New Jersey v. James Craft

May 14, 2012

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
JAMES CRAFT, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Indictment No. 10-03-0726.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Graves, J.A.D.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

APPROVED FOR PUBLICATION

Argued November 10, 2011

Before Judges Fuentes, Graves, and Koblitz.

The opinion of the court was delivered by GRAVES, J.A.D.

Defendant James Craft was charged with third-degree possession of cocaine, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10(a)(1); third-degree receiving stolen property, a nine-millimeter handgun, N.J.S.A. 2C:20-7; and second-degree unlawful possession of the handgun, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5(b). After the trial court granted defendant's motion to suppress the cocaine and the handgun, we granted the State's motion for leave to appeal and now reverse. We conclude there was no violation of defendant's constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment or Article I, Paragraph 7, of the New Jersey Constitution.

Two witnesses testified at the suppression hearing. The State presented testimony from Newark Detective Dennis Daniels, a fifteen-year veteran of the department. In addition, Jacqueline Craft, defendant's mother, testified for the defense.

Daniels testified he was assigned to the Fugitive Apprehension Team (Team) when it received a warrant for defendant's arrest.*fn1 The Team also received information from its intelligence officer that defendant was residing with family members in a second-floor apartment of a three-family house at a specific address on South 13th Street in the City of Newark. Daniels testified he was familiar with the location, and he knew that the Craft family resided at the address because he had "made arrests there before."

Daniels explained that the intelligence officer analyzes "certain information that we get and he gives us the addresses where we need to go, so we don't have to run around the City looking for people that don't live at . . . certain addresses anymore." Daniels also testified that the Team "went out on the case immediately because it was a shooting warrant."

At approximately 8:00 a.m. on November 10, 2009, Daniels and several other members of the Team went to the address provided by the intelligence officer to execute the arrest warrant. The officers were wearing civilian clothes, but Daniels "had [his] badge around [his] neck." Daniels testified the front door to the three-family residence was "wide open," and he proceeded to the second floor with three other officers. Other members of the team were stationed outside the house.

Daniels said he knocked on the second-floor apartment door, and Ms. Craft opened the door. After identifying himself, Daniels asked whether the officers could enter the apartment to speak with Ms. Craft regarding her son. According to Daniels, Ms. Craft consented to the officers' entry into her apartment.

Upon entering the apartment, Daniels advised Ms. Craft that her son was wanted for "a shooting," and they had a warrant for his arrest. Daniels testified that Ms. Craft said her son "wasn't there," but she offered to call him on the phone. When Ms. Craft made the call, a cell phone in a bedroom began ringing. Daniels believed that defendant's phone was ringing and that defendant would probably "be by [his] phone." Therefore, Daniels "immediately went to the room," opened the door, and observed defendant "going out the window."

Daniels testified that defendant dropped a black handgun on the floor as he was climbing out the window. The police recovered the handgun and five vials of cocaine from the bedroom. The cocaine was in plain view on top of a dresser. After a brief ...


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