- On September 25, 2015
New Jersey driver rights took a hit this week. In a surprising decision this week our state’s highest court reversed a prior decision regarding when police are allowed to search our vehicles.
In its most recent decision determining when police can search vehicles in the course of a motor vehicle stop, the New Jersey Supreme Court reversed its own prior decision of several years earlier, by eliminating the need to obtain a search warrant to permit automobile searches unless emergent, exigent circumstances could be demonstrated.
An excerpt from an Associated Press story featured on News 12 this week:
Police can now search a vehicle without a warrant if they have probable cause to believe there is contraband or evidence of a crime as long as the circumstances that led to the probable cause are unforeseeable and spontaneous.
The decision overturns a rule put in place six years ago that led to officers calling for warrants during many stops.
The decision comes in the case of William Witt, who was charged with weapons charges after police found a gun in his center console after pulling him over for not dimming his high beams.
This reversal increases police intrusion into vehicle areas which are not otherwise in “plain view” without the prior approval of a judge.
The same Court recently relieved the State of the need to comply with its own order requiring correction of flaws in its Alcotest breath test program used in DWI prosecutions.
These decisions suggest that the Court may be more narrowly construing individual rights than it has in the past.