New Jersey’s standard for conducting a police search following a traffic stop has long been stricter than the Federal standard. In New Jersey, state law not only requires police to show probable cause to conduct a search, but also that there is a safety risk to them or the public; otherwise, police are required to obtain a search warrant prior to conducting a search of the stopped vehicle. The Federal standard, as adopted by most states, only requires a showing of probable cause. At issue are two cases, currently being heard by the New Jersey Supreme Court. In both cases, vehicles were stopped for traffic violations and upon a finding of probable cause, the vehicles were searched and drugs and weapons were recovered. In both cases, State Appellate Courts found the searches to be improper because the police did not obtain a search warrant.
Advocates for keeping New Jersey law as is argue that the United States Constitution contains protections against illegal searches and seizures, and that even if obtaining a warrant is an extreme burden, it is a burden the Constitution envisioned. The opposition argues that New Jersey state law is too restrictive on police and that it should be changed to match the Federal standard. The current law requires judges to be on-call 24/7 to issue search warrants for traffic stops. Further, they argue that a quick 5-minute search based on probable cause is less intrusive than detaining the driver and passengers while a warrant is being obtained. Other questions to be determined relate to “warrant substitutes”, such as when an officer sees contraband in plain-view during the traffic stop. In this instance, obtaining a search warrant can be seen as an unnecessary obligation since it will undoubtedly be issued. Advocates for keeping the existing law argue that judges should be more readily available to issue warrants; not merely dispensing with the requirement to obtain warrants.
Suppression of Evidence
In a criminal trial, the burden is on the prosecution to prove guilt beyond all reasonable doubt. The prosecution builds their case with evidence; some evidence stronger than other. There are rules regarding evidence, both State and Federal, which govern what evidence is admissible and what is not. Often, some or all of the evidence the prosecution wishes to use was obtained illegally, either by police or third party. An experienced criminal defense attorney is an expert in the field of evidence. Upon reviewing a defendant’s case, a criminal defense attorney will determine if some of the evidence can and should be suppressed, and will take the appropriate actions to do so.
If you have been charged with a criminal offense, contact the Law Offices of Marc Neff via phone at (215) 563-9800 or e-mail Marc@nefflawoffices.com for a confidential consultation.