Officers from the Bloomfield Police Department recently arrested three individuals after reportedly discovering drug paraphernalia and hypodermic needles, commonly used to dispense heroin, in their vehicle during a routine motor vehicle stop.
Members of Bloomfield’s Anti-Crime Unit stopped a vehicle in the vicinity of Grove Street at approximately 12:11 a.m. on Tuesday, July 12th. The car was occupied by 29-year-old Joseph Amante, 21-year-old Annisa Frey, and 24-year-old Jeremy Ramirez.
Joseph Almante, the driver, was reportedly driving with a suspended license, for which he was issued a motor vehicle summons. Almante and his passengers were also charged with possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of a hypodermic needle or syringe after police retrieved hypodermic syringes, drug packaging materials, and other items considered drug paraphernalia from the vehicle. Almante was also charged with possession of CDS in a motor vehicle.
It is unclear where exactly the drug paraphernalia was located in the car, but this case raises several issues that are frequently involved in drug cases. First, the charges issued against each person in the car raise the question of “actual” versus “constructive” possession. In New Jersey, a person can be charged with possession of a controlled dangerous substance or drug paraphernalia if he or she is found to have actual or constructive possession of it.
Actual possession refers to possession in which the item is located directly on the defendant’s physical person, such as in their pocket. On the other hand, constructive possession refers to possession in which the defendant does not physically have the item on his or her person but is aware that the item is present and is able to exercise intentional control or dominion over it. In this case, the fact that the drug paraphernalia was located in the car means that each person in the car can be charged with constructive possession of it.
The second issue involved in this case is related to the search of the vehicle. It is important to note that officers must have probable cause to believe that a crime is being committed in order to search the car, unless they obtain consent from the car’s owner. If officers cannot establish probable cause and did not obtain a search warrant or consent to search the vehicle, any evidence discovered therein is considered “fruit of the poisonous tree” and may be deemed inadmissible in a court of law. Without evidence to substantiate possession of the items, the drug charges are likely to be dismissed.
Whether the search was valid in this case will require investigation, which a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney can conduct and use to build an effective defense.
For additional information pertaining to law enforcement activities in Bloomfield, New Jersey, access the Bloomfield: Police blotter, July 21