New Jersey v. Gibson

Winslow Township Police Patrolman Carl Mueller testified that he stopped defendant after defendant’s car passed the officer’s police vehicle. Officer Mueller testified defendant was traveling at a “high rate of speed,” and failed to use his turn signal when returning to the normal travel lane. After he approached the vehicle, Officer Mueller detected an odor of alcoholic beverage. Defendant admitted that he had been drinking. Officer Mueller ordered defendant to perform field sobriety tests and defendant acquiesced. Defendant later resisted arrest. The officer requested backup, and eventually resorted to the use of pepper spray to subdue defendant. Defendant was charged with DUI, reckless driving and failing to signal. A Camden County Grand Jury also indicted defendant for third-degree aggravated assault on a police officer, third-degree resisting arrest, and two counts of fourth-degree subjecting a law enforcement officer to bodily fluid. Defendant pled guilty to assaulting the officer and was sentenced to two years non-custodial probation. The remaining counts of the indictment were dismissed and the motor vehicle charges were remanded to municipal court for disposition. At trial, the conviction was entered solely on the basis of evidence elicited at a pre-trial hearing to suppress the fruits of the stop and subsequent arrest. The Appellate Division reversed defendant’s conviction, and entered a judgment of acquittal, holding that a trial court sitting as a fact-finder in a quasi-criminal matter may not rely on the evidence heard in a pre-trial suppression hearing as proof of guilt in the trial on the merits without defendant’s consent. The issue this case presented for the Supreme Court's review was the correct remedy when the municipal court convicts a defendant solely based on evidence adduced in a pre-trial suppression hearing, without defendant’s consent but without objection. Due to the fundamental differences between the purposes of a suppression hearing and a trial on the merits of the charges, the evidence from the pre-trial hearing cannot be used in a subsequent trial on the merits, without a stipulation from both parties. However, the correct remedy for this error is a remand for a new trial rather than a judgment of acquittal. The Court therefore reversed the judgment of the Appellate Division and remanded the case to the municipal court for further proceedings. View "New Jersey v. Gibson" on Justia Law