Articles Posted in Search and Seizure

New Jersey Police departments claim they can see and smell everything. Using skills usually reserved for a Marvel superhero, law enforcement routinely claims they can see drugs through a closed container, smell marijuana through a brick house miles away, or detect the odor of marijuana from a vaporizer pen used solely for cigarettes.

 If you have been the victim of a superman cop stop, whereby plain smell or plain view was the basis for the search and subsequent seizure of contraband on your person, seasoned criminal defense attorneys can help.

 One of the most used exceptions to the warrant requirement is the plain view exception. In New Jersey, the plain view exception to warrant requirement rule can be applied to four different sensory perceptions including view, smell, sound, and touch. The plain view doctrine is used in cases involving guns and drugs routinely, but there are requirements that need to be fulfilled for the exception to be deemed reasonable.

Constitutionally protected privacy interests are enshrined in the 4th Amendment protection against warrantless searches and seizures as well as Article I, Paragraph 7 of the New Jersey State Constitution. One key exception to the warrant requirement, as well as the requirement for probable cause precedent to the execution of a search, is voluntary consent knowingly waived by a party with authority to search. For a person to be considered a valid third party that can consent to a search of property he or she must meet a few requirements:

·         The area being searched is shared with the suspect and the third party.

·         The third party has control over the shared area- i.e., they have a key to such areas or their name is listed on the lease.

The Fourth Amendment of the constitution protects people from unreasonable search and seizures, but the law is not as clear-cut in some particular circumstances.  One grey area in search and seizure law involves searches conducted at student housing owned by colleges.  College campuses are unique in that they create their own set of laws and policies that their students need to abide by while attending the school. Universities generally have very strict policies, including rules that could be seen as infringing on the students 4th Amendment rights.  Is it reasonable for universities to be able to conduct warrantless search and seizures on campus living facilities? The 4th Amendment protects people from unreasonable search and seizures, but is it considered reasonable for universities to be able to conduct random searches of students living on campus? There are two primary means by which universities may bypass a students Fourth Amendment right:

1.      Courts deem attending a university and residing in a school owned building as a voluntary waiver to follow the university polices and laws. Student routinely sign contracts consenting to random searches by school officials when living in a school owned facility.

2.      The University’s inherent duty to keep the student’s facilities safe with inspections, i.e. checking fire alarms systems give schools a regulatory exemption to conduct warrantless searches.

In New Jersey, a request for consent to perform a search is a commonly used tactic by police, especially in drug/controlled dangerous substance and firearms cases. Receiving consent may permit law enforcement to search your personal property, car, even your home without a warrant. Per the 4th Amendment of the US Constitution and  Article I, Paragraph 7 of the New Jersey Constitution, a warrant or probable cause is necessary for law enforcement to be able to execute a search. Consent searches are a way for law enforcement to get around the warrant requirement, but are problematic in several respects.  

Who is the appropriate party to grant consent to search the property? What is the scope of the consent? Can the police pressure someone into consenting? What is the potential to have any evidence obtained by the police, i.e. weapons, drugs, tossed out of court or suppressed if the consent given to search was not valid?

The Fourth Amendment requires that consent for a search must be voluntarily given and not the result of duress or coercion.  The New Jersey Supreme Court in State v King listed multiple factors in gauging whether the consent was voluntary such as: