State v. Carrillo

The New Jersey Appellate Division held “that an officer may conduct a second pat-down search when, giving weight to the unproductive first one, the circumstances preceding the second one still give the officer reason to believe the suspect is armed and dangerous”. But, en route to that holding, the Court issued an impactful procedural ruling. The lower court denied the defendant’s motion to suppress without a hearing. Neither party included certifications or affidavits with their briefs. Other than the briefs — which included the parties’ factual allegations — the trial court reviewed only the dash-mounted camera of the car stop that preceded the pat-down. In reviewing the lower court’s order, the Appellate Division pondered which standard of review to apply, given that no evidence was taken. The Court held that factual allegations in a brief are not evidence. So, when a trial court examines the parties’ allegations and determines that no “material facts are disputed” requiring a testimonial hearing, an appellate court is not obliged to afford that determination the same deference it would extend to findings based on documentary or video evidence. Thus, the Court applied a standard of review, which did not give deference to the trial court’s findings. The Court reversed and remanded because it found “material factual disputes that the trial court did not”.

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