Campan asked defendant what she was doing, and she replied that she was smoking a cigarette. Campan testified that he did not observe a cigarette or cigarette butt. Campan asked her why she began to scuffle around the passenger-seat area when he pulled his car up behind hers. Defendant replied that she had been applying makeup and was putting it away in her purse. When Campan asked how she could apply makeup in the dark, she did not reply. Campan then asked defendant whether there was “anything he should know about” in the vehicle. According to Campan, defendant responded by stating something along the lines of “yes it’s the same thing you arrested me for before in the past.” Then, according to Campan, defendant, unprompted, reached over to the passenger seat and produced an eyeglass case. Defendant opened the eyeglass case and Campan observed a white powdery substance that he identified as drugs. Campan ordered defendant out of the vehicle and placed her under arrest.
Defendant was charged with third-degree possession of a controlled dangerous substance. The motion court denied defendant’s motion to suppress, concluding that the encounter did not escalate into an investigatory stop until Campan asked defendant whether she had anything in the car he should know about. By that point, the court found, the brief detention was supported by the officer’s reasonable and articulable suspicion due to defendant’s implausible responses to the officer’s questions and his prior knowledge of her criminal activity. The court also rejected defendant’s Miranda argument, determining that defendant voluntarily relinquished the drugs, volunteered statements to the officer, and was not in custody prior to her arrest. Defendant pled guilty. The Appellate Division affirmed, and the New Jersey Supreme Court granted defendant’s petition for certification.
The New Jersey Supreme Court held that defendant was faced with an investigative detention once the officer blocked in her vehicle, directed the patrol car’s alley light to shine into her car, and then approached her driver’s-side window to address her. Under the totality of the circumstances, a reasonable person would feel the constraints on her freedom of movement from having become the focus of law enforcement attention. Accordingly, an investigative detention had begun. Reasonable articulable suspicion did not ripen prior to the officer’s subsequent exchanges with defendant.
It seems the likely scenario was that the officer testified that he was unaware of the defendant’s prior arrest until after questioning began in order to avoid a Miranda violation. Ironically, this testimony formed the basis of a separate rights violation, namely, conducting an investigatory detention without reasonable suspicion. Note that there likely would have been reasonable suspicion if the aforementioned tip was not made anonymously. There is also the possibility that the police made up the tip and therefore could not attribute it to an actual, verifiable person.