December 1, 2012
SUMMARY OF STATE v. MARISTANY
Cite as, 133 N.J. 299 This is a case as to whether a search and seizure was reasonable within the law. While
Troopers Frank Trifari and Thomas Colella were on routine patrol on southbound Interstate 95 in 1988 they stopped a car for failing to keep to the right. There were two men in the car,
Gerald Green, the driver, and passenger Reinaldo Maristany. Both men appeared to be very nervous when Green was asked for the license and registration. When Green failed to produce a license and registration Trooper Trifari asked Green to exit the car and walk to the rear.
Defendant Maristany remained in the passenger seat in the car. Each were questioned separately. Both men seemed very nervous and each had a different story to tell as to why they were in New York City. Because of the different stories, and their nervousness Trooper
Trifari requested to search the vehicle. Maristany was not within hearing distance when Green gave the trooper consent to and signed a consent form to search the vehicle including the trunk. Nothing was found in the car but when Trooper Trifari opened the trunk he saw a blue canvas bag and a brown suitcase.
Green also gave consent to search the trunk. The trooper found three kilograms of cocaine in the blue canvas gym bag. Nothing was found in the brown suitcase. The troopers also found a rental agreement for the car to Bernadette Harvey. Both men were arrested and taken to headquarters. Two hours later while at headquarters Green gave a statement to Trooper Trifari that he had picked up Maristany in
New York and that Maristany had placed the blue gym bag in the trunk. Maristany made no statement as to the bag’s ownership. Both were indicted for possession of a controlled
dangerous substance and possession of a controlled dangerous substance with intent to distribute. Maristany’s attorney filed a motion to suppress the evidence arguing that Green’s consent to search was not valid as to the blue gym bag because Green did not own the blue gym bag. The State argued that the driver showed apparent ownership and control of the car to the trooper and consented to the search, nothing indicated that Maristany owned the gym bag. The trial court denied the motion to suppress the evidence because Green’s statement as to Maristany owning the blue gym bag was not made until two hours after the search had been completed and concluded that the trooper’s belief at the time of the stop that Green had the authority to consent and the search had been objectively reasonable. At the trial Trooper
Trifari testified as to the statement Green had made at headquarters regarding ownership of the blue gym bag. Defendant Maristany was convicted on both counts and was sentenced to seven years imprisonment with a three year period of parole ineligibility. Maristany’s attorney appealed the decision to the Appellate Court. Appellate Court granted certification that the officer’s conclusion that the driver possessed apparent authority to consent to search of the bag found in the trunk was objectively reasonable but the officer’s testimony concerning driver’s statement that the bag found in the trunk of the car belonged to the defendant, Maristany, was heresay and constituted reversible error. In other words, he agreed with the first part but not the second part and the case should be re-tried. The Fourth Amendment protects the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures. To determine the constitutionality of a search and seizure we must consider whether the conduct of the law enforcement officer who undertook the search was objectively reasonable. A warrantless
search is unreasonable unless it falls with one of a few, well defined exceptions. To justify search on the basis of consent