On May 19, 2009, the Appellate Division decided State of New Jersey v. Yusef Gethers, Docket No.: A-5323-06T4. By way of background, on March 24, 2005, a Union County grand jury returned an indictment charging Defendant, Yusef Gethers, with second-degree certain persons not to possess a weapon, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-7(b)(1). On the same date, a Union County grand jury returned an indictment charging Defendant with third-degree unlawful possession of a weapon, a handgun, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5(b) (count one), and fourth-degree possession of a prohibited device, hollow point bullets, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-3(f).
Following denial of his motion to suppress evidence, Defendant pled guilty to count one of the indictment, third-degree unlawful possession of a weapon. Pursuant to a plea bargain reached with the State, Defendant was sentence to five (5) years probation, conditioned upon 364 days of house arrest. The trial court dismissed the remaining charges under the indictments as well as an outstanding municipal court warrant. The trial court also imposed the appropriate fees and penalties. Thereafter, this appeal ensued when Defendant appealed the suppression ruling.
In this case, the Appellate Division determined the motion to suppress evidence obtained in a vehicular search, specifically, a gun found in a backpack not in plain view, was improperly denied by the trial judge. The Court found the State did not carry its burden of demonstrating a recognized exception to the warrant requirement where: (1) both occupants were outside the car and did not have access to the backpack; (2) there was no possibility they would leave the area; (3) the officers’ conduct did not indicate a belief the occupants were armed and dangerous; (4) there was no evidence of accomplices who might have come onto the scene or other persons who had access to the car destroying or disposing of the evidence or moving the car; (5) the car was parked in a residential driveway so there was no issue of traffic obstruction; (6) the ratio of officers to suspects was 4-to-2; and (7) the Defendant was in a wheelchair. Consequently, the Court reversed the trial judge’s ruling and remanded the case back to the trial court.