State in the Interest of T.M., ? N.J. Super. ?, 2010 N.J. Super. LEXIS 38 (March 8, 2010) – Denial of waiver of juvenile to adult court reversed. “We agree with the State that the undisputed evidence presented at the waiver hearing was sufficient to establish probable cause to conclude that the seventeen-year-old juvenile … possessed firearms while in possession of heroin with intent to distribute….
The judge of the Family Part concluded that the evidence was insufficient to establish probable cause that T.M. possessed the safe and its contents, especially because Erica M. had been found on the third floor and could have placed the movable safe under T.M.’s bed as the police entered the home. The judge criticized the Newark police for neglecting to obtain fingerprints from the safe or the guns….
While the possibility that someone else placed the safe under T.M.’s bed without his knowledge may provide reasonable doubt to the ultimate factfinder, guilt or innocence is not at issue in a waiver hearing…. Here, it was more probable than not that the safe found under T.M’s bed, in the bedroom that he occupied alone, was in his possession and he knew what it contained.
One can reasonably infer from the safe’s location and T.M.’s exclusive occupancy of the room that T.M. put it under the bed. Although the safe was locked and movable, there was no evidence that anyone else had placed it there…. Here, the trial court imposed a burden upon the State to prove more than probable cause, essentially T.M.’s guilt. Imposition of that burden was legal error.”