Scope of Protective Sweeps (Part 4)

by | May 11, 2022 | Blog, Criminal Law, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

Justice Albin continued in relevant part: In the bedroom, which was littered with loose bullets and shell casings, Detective Petrosky struggled with Boston and eventually handcuffed him. A computer check revealed that both Boston and Willis had outstanding warrants for their arrest. Willis identified a photograph of Fuller shown to him and indicated that Fuller could be found in a back trailer. Willis stated that, minutes earlier, he had seen Fuller there with another male. The officers knew that the trailer described by Willis belonged to Terres. Willis warned the officers to “be careful. . . . There’s two males back there.”

Sergeant Koller and Trooper Smith took charge of Boston and Willis while Detective Petrosky and Trooper Hershey proceeded to Terres’s trailer two hundred yards away. Once there, Detective Petrosky and Trooper Hershey split up to cover different sides of the trailer. Peering through one of the trailer’s windows, Detective Petrosky observed Fuller talking to a woman later identified as Allison Terres. Petrosky yelled to Fuller to get to the ground and that he was under arrest. Disobeying that command, Fuller ran through the front door. He was intercepted by Trooper Hershey, who got Fuller face down and handcuffed on the trailer’s deck within five feet of the door and attempted to pull a hypodermic needle from Fuller’s pants pocket. Ms. Terres said no one else was inside, and Detective Petrosky instructed her to move outside the doorway. Detective Petrosky shouted into the trailer, commanding that anyone inside was to come to the front door. With no response, Detective Petrosky stepped into the trailer and saw a cross bow hanging inside and arrows scattered about. He conducted a quick search of each room for the presence of the other man earlier mentioned by Willis.

During the sweep, Detective Petrosky observed a hole in the floor partially covered by plywood. The hole appeared large enough for a person to hide under the residence. When Petrosky looked into the hole, he saw a handgun and the barrels of either shotguns or rifles. He did not touch any of the weapons. The sweep of the trailer lasted approximately three to five minutes. Law enforcement officers secured the trailer overnight as Trooper Hershey applied for a search warrant.

The defense would be wise to visit the scene under these circumstances. Without to-scale photographs, it is likely that the police were exaggerating the size of the hole in an effort to justify the evidence seizure.