On February 26, 2014, the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division overturned a lower-court’s decision regarding police officers’ actions in the case of State of New Jersey v. Ramier A. Dunbar (Docket No. A-5722-12T2). The lower court had suppressed evidence (a handgun), ruling that the “Terry Stop” of the defendant was unconstitutional. Here, the Appellate Division disagreed, ruling that the police acted constitutionally by stopping defendant. Because of this higher-court ruling, the State of New Jersey will be able to use the handgun as evidence against the defendant.
If the police stop you, search you, or seize your property, they must have proper constitutional justification to do so. If the State cannot prove that officers had the right to so act, any evidence they find can be “suppressed” and therefore will not be used against you in court. The analysis can be complicated as the Court will look at the facts of any given case, and compare it to the body of case law that exists in New Jersey.
In the Dunbar case, police responded to the report of a shooting. Officers arrived and found approximately thirty persons congregated in the area. The officers’ attention was drawn to Dunbar, who appeared nervous and ducked into an alley as other people left the area. Dunbar then came out of the alley, began to walk away, but kept the patrol cars in view. The patrol cars followed Dunbar, and the officers attempted to speak with him. Dunbar continued to walk away, but kept looking over his shoulder at the officers. The officers stepped out of the patrol car and asked Dunbar to stop. Dunbar began to run and then threw a handgun onto the ground. Police captured Dunbar and recovered the handgun. Police also found a bag containing marijuana in Dunbar’s possession.
Dunbar was indicted for second-degree Unlawful Possession of a Weapon, second-degree Possession of a Weapon for Unlawful Purpose, fourth-Degree Possession of a Prohibited Device (a hollow-point bullet), third-degree Resisting Arrest, and fourth-degree Obstruction.
The Appellate Division found that the facts, in totality, gave rise to a reasonable and articulable suspicion that Dunbar had committed a crime, or was in the process of committing one. Thus, the higher-court found that the investigatory stop of Dunbar was proper. Accordingly, the seizure of the gun, the marijuana, and the arrest of Dunbar were all ruled to be lawful.
If you are facing criminal charges you should obtain legal counsel for assistance immediately. Please contact Michael Mormando at the law firm of Attorneys Hartman, Chartered at (856-393-6073). Michael is a former Assistant County Prosecutor, has handled hundreds of suppression cases, teaches the subject of Search and Seizure to the Burlington County Bar Association (including Lawyers and Judges), and has taught the law enforcement community the subject of Search and Seizure for over a decade. As defense counsel, Michael can assist you analyze the facts of your particular case, and will file a motion on your behalf if the police have violated your constitutional rights.