Franks Hearings and Discovery (Part 2)

by | Mar 31, 2021 | Blog, Criminal Law, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

The New Jersey Supreme Court majority continued in relevant part: The affidavit did not state that the detective provided the CI with “buy money” with which to purchase the drugs. Based solely on that affidavit, a judge granted a no-knock search warrant for defendant’s home. Defendant moved to suppress the contraband seized during the execution of the warrant and for a Franks hearing, which is a hearing to challenge the veracity of an affidavit upon which a facially valid search warrant is based. Counsel asserted that defendant did not sell Molly from his home. Five months after filing his motion to suppress and for a hearing, defendant moved to compel discovery, seeking the initial investigation report, any proof of money provided to the CI for the controlled buy, laboratory reports, and a transcript or audio recording of the intercepted calls.

The trial court denied defendant’s motion to suppress and for a Franks hearing. Six months later, a different judge considered and denied defendant’s motion to compel discovery. Defendant pled guilty to possession of Molly with intent to distribute, reserving the right to appeal the denial of his motions. The Appellate Division reversed the denial of defendant’s motion to compel discovery and remanded for further proceedings. 461 N.J. Super. 185, 187 (App. Div. 2019). The court permitted defendant, after receiving discovery, “either to withdraw his plea and proceed to trial . . . or to accept his earlier conviction and sentence.”

Even though the indictment did not charge defendant with the sale of narcotics to the CI, the Appellate Division found that, under provisions of Rule 3:13-3(b)(1), the State should have automatically given defendant the laboratory report — along with any police reports and video and sound recordings — once the indictment was filed.

A defendant seeking discovery in connection with a Franks hearing may — in the trial court’s discretion and on showing a plausible justification that casts reasonable doubt on the veracity of the affidavit — be entitled to limited discovery described with particularity that is material to the determination of probable cause. The Court affirms and modifies the Appellate Division’s judgment and remands to the trial court for consideration under the standard adopted in this decision.

Here, the defendant had to specifically reserve his right to appeal the denial of his motion to compel discovery. Even though the discovery related to a suppression hearing that he had automatic standing to appeal, he did not have automatic standing to appeal the discovery motion.