On June 6, 2017, Justice LaVecchia wrote for a six to one majority of the New Jersey Supreme Court in the Monmouth County case of State v. Lurdes Rosario. In this appeal, the Court addresses whether and at what point defendant’s interaction with the police officer escalated from a field inquiry into an investigative detention. The Court then assesses whether reasonable articulable suspicion supported the detention’s restriction on defendant’s freedom of movement.
The Colts Neck Police Department received an anonymous tip, on April 27, 2013, that defendant was selling heroin from her home, located in a residential development known as “the Grande,” as well as out of her “older burgundy Chevy Lumina.” On May 1, 2013, at about 11:30 p.m., Officer Campan was patrolling in the Grande, and his attention was drawn to a moving silhouette in a parked burgundy Chevy Lumina.
Campan testified that he pulled up and parked his patrol car seven to ten feet behind defendant’s vehicle and at a perpendicular angle. The cruiser’s positioning blocked in defendant’s car. Campan turned on the patrol car’s rooftop, right alley light aimed at the parked vehicle, but not the siren or emergency lights. The alley light revealed a woman sitting in the driver’s seat of the Lumina. Campan testified that the woman, later identified as defendant, looked back at him and then leaned toward the passenger’s seat and was “scuffling around” with something there. He exited his car and approached her vehicle, going directly to the driver’s-side door. Finding the driver’s window half-open, he addressed defendant by asking for “identification and driver’s license.” After she produced them, he recognized her as the subject of the anonymous tip. Campan testified that he also recalled, at that moment, that he had arrested defendant on drug-related charges approximately six months earlier.
It is clear that the officer was briefed about defendant’s identity and was likely shown a picture of her during the briefing. It seems equally clear that the officer lied when he testified that he did not remember previously arresting the defendant until that moment. Colts Neck is a relatively low-crime town and it is hard to believe that the officer would not remember this defendant upon being briefed regarding her name, address, vehicle, other pedigree information, and likely a DMV or other photo.