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And you thought you would never see the day

And you thought you would never see the day when the NJ Supreme Court would rule in favor of common sense, police work.

Well they did!

Yesterday, in the combined cases of State v. Pena-Flores, A-129-06, and State v. Fuller, A-15-07, the Court ruled as follows (taken from NJ Lawyer and other sources):

COURT UPHOLDS WARRANTLESS AUTOMOBILE SEARCHES

New Jersey will join California and a handful of other states that allow police officers to searchautomobilesbased on warrants obtained over the telephone or through other electronic measures. A split Supreme Court ruled Wednesday in combined cases, State v.Pena-Flores, A-129-06, and State v.Fuller, A-15-07, that changes in technology now allow for more rapid communication between officers on the street and judges who can review a request for a search within a matter of minutes, and that a warrant obtained electronically is "the analytical equivalent of an in-person warrant and should be treated accordingly."

Justice Barry Albin, in adissent, said the majority's ruling is the "final interment" to the automobile exception and predicted that the new rule would lead to situations in which motorists are unduly delayed while police obtain a warrant rather thango through an assessment of whether a warrantless search is justified.

In the future, the Court will not make any distinction between a telephonic search warrant and one that has been granted in the traditional manner through a personal appearance before a neutral and detached judge. The Part III Rules of Court will be amended accordingly.

The Pena-Flores case also provides police and prosecutors with detailed guidance on when exigent circumstances exist during the course of a motor vehicle stop sufficient to support a warrantless search of a motor vehicle under the automobile exception.

According to the Court, the purpose behind this exception to the warrant requirement is based upon notions of law enforcement safety and preservation of evidence. Under New Jersey law, this exception must be supported by both probable cause and exigent circumstances. Among the factors to be considered by the courts in judging the reasonableness of police conduct on issues of exigency are the following:

  • The time of day;
  • The location of the stop;
  • The nature of the neighborhood;
  • The unfolding of the events establishing probable cause;
  • The ratio of officers to suspects;
  • The existence of confederates who know the car’s location and could remove it or its contents;
  • Whether the arrest was observed by passers by who could tamper with the car or evidence;
  • Whether it would be safe to leave the car unguarded and, if not;
  • Whether the delay that would be caused by obtaining a warrant would place the officers or evidence at risk.

And finally, consider that the Court has now ruled that you are permitted to search for documents in the event the operator can not provide or locate the requested documents.

This changes the law from State v. Lark which previously prevent you from do so. But the Supremes failed to mention State v. Lark so we can expect more guidance on this issue in the future.

One for the GOOD Guys. Any questions, please feel free to contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

And remember - STAY SAFE!

Bob