Investigatory Detentions (Part 1)

by | Mar 19, 2019 | Blog, Criminal Law, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

On February 5, 2019, the New Jersey Supreme Court decided the Monmouth County case of State v. Deyvon Chisum. Justice Fernandez-Vina wrote for a unanimous court. The principal issue was whether the police exceeded the scope of a lawful investigative detention in conducting a pat down after dispelling the presence of criminal activity.

In this case, police officers responded to a noise complaint at a motel room and determined not to issue a summons when the renter of the room immediately complied with their request to turn down the music. The police nevertheless conducted an investigatory detention on a group of ten people and ran warrant checks on them. More than twenty minutes into the detention, police arrested Deyvon Chisum for an outstanding warrant and discovered a concealed firearm on him. They then conducted pat-down searches on the remaining occupants and found a firearm on defendant Keshown Woodard. The trial court denied defendants’ motions to suppress the firearms, and the Appellate Division affirmed. The Court reviews that denial.

Shortly before midnight on February 7, 2014, two Neptune police officers, Officer Harris and Officer Sibole, were dispatched to the Crystal Inn Motel to investigate a noise complaint. Officer Harris was familiar with the Crystal Inn Motel based on prior calls to the motel and the motel’s reputation as a site where criminal activity took place. Officer Harris could hear “loud music” and “multiple voices” coming from inside Room 221. He identified himself as a police officer and informed the occupants that the police were there in response to a noise complaint. From his vantage point, Officer Harris could see “about ten people” in the room. Officer Harris then asked to speak to the renter of the room, at which time Zykia Reevey identified herself as that person. She apologized for the noise and invited the officers inside. Around that time, three back-up officers arrived. Officer Harris, Officer Sibole, and one of the back-up officers entered the room, while the two other officers remained in the hallway as a safety precaution. Officer Harris spoke to Reevey, who lowered the volume of the music at the officer’s request.

The Court places significance on the police decision to not issue a summons. This will likely lead to police being trained to issues summonses in order to justify a longer warrantless detention.