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NJ Police Search Exceeded Scope of Consent

16
Jun
2010

by in Criminal Defense

State v. Steven Bloom, unpublished opinion, App. Div. Docket No. A-0076-09T4 (May 28, 2010) – Order suppressing evidence affirmed. “In this case, the State first argues that no search of defendant’s premises was intended, and that the police were present there as lawful social guests or business invitees…. [I]n the present case, the judge accepted as credible defendant’s testimony that, although Nugnes’s conduct may have appeared to be merely investigatory, the other two officers pushed past defendant in an obvious attempt to view the entire first floor of the condominium unit.

Thus, the evidence as supported by the record and accepted by the motion judge establishes that the police sought to do more than enter to continue their investigation [and] the State was required to demonstrate that an exception to the warrant requirement validated their warrantless search of defendant’s dwelling….

Even if we assume that defendant invited or permitted the police to enter into the hall of his condominium, we find no legal justification for their further intrusion into the living portion of the unit — an area for which the judge found consent to enter was not provided. Such an intrusion was not required in order for the police to complete their announced mission of investigating a noise complaint, and it could not have been reasonably contemplated by defendant when he allegedly permitted entry into the hall….

The difficulty with [the State’s arguments regarding plain view of various items including hypodermic needles and a Glock pistol] is [that they are] premised on the presumption that the police’s presence in defendant’s living room was legal. The motion judge found that it was not, and we find that conclusion to be factually and legally supported. Moreover, the State’s view requires acceptance of the State’s position that defendant led the police into his living room and complied with Nugnes’s request that he seat himself on the couch. Defendant denied that this version of events was correct, and the trial judge credited defendant’s testimony.”

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