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Search & Seizure

Morristown Criminal Defense Attorneys protecting clients from warrantless searches throughout Northern NJ

Illegal Search & Seizure Attorney in New Jersey

You have a right to be free from “unreasonable” search and seizure under the NJ Constitution.  Generally the police are required to obtain a warrant to search the person or property of an individual.  This extends to homes, vehicles, bags carried by individuals and any other area in which you hold a “reasonable” expectation of privacy.  Often the police will use evidence obtained by a warrantless search to demonstrate probable cause rather than conduct a search based on probable cause.  If a defense attorney fails to take the appropriate steps to suppress the evidence, you may be convicted based on evidence which is obtained in violation of your rights.  Our experienced criminal defense lawyers will immediately file suppression motions to eliminate illegally obtained evidence.

Ultimately, the court becomes the arbiter of “reasonableness” when a warrant is sought or warrantless search is undertaken by police and a defendant objects to the search or the probable cause grounds for the warrant.  The Darling Law Firm makes every effort to convince the court to suppress any evidence which the State intends to use against you.  Recognizing the exceptions to the warrant requirement and the way they have been applied in the past is critical to our ability to protect you.

Exceptions to the Warrant Requirement

Below we have set forth some exceptions to the requirement of a search warrant and the associated criteria.  Each of these exceptions is based on the concept of exigent circumstances which contemplates an urgent situation requiring immediate action which would render it impractical to obtain a warrant.  These exceptions were narrowly carved to allow very particular circumstances.  Over time the prosecution has worked hard to increase the span of each of these exceptions in order to extend them to ever increasing circumstances.  Because of the prosecution’s success in broadening the scope of exceptions, it is critical that you have the attorneys of The Darling Law Firm at your side when defending against the prosecution’s charges.

Automobile Exception

In order to stop your vehicle the police must have probable cause.  Minor violations of the motor vehicle laws do not necessarily lead to valid searches when the police next search your car based on plain view of evidence of criminal activity or smell.  This exception is often used in higher crime areas or during late night hours.  In the event of a warrantless vehicle search the court will consider:

  •  Time of day
  • Location of the stop
  • Nature of the neighborhood
  • Order of events leading up to and establishing probable cause
  • Number of officers and number of vehicle occupants for officer safety reasons
  • Possibility that evidence will be removed or destroyed by the occupants of the vehicle or others before the warrant may be obtained

Hot Pursuit Exception

Police are following a suspect fleeing directly from a crime scene and entry into a residence or other structure is required to continue pursuit of the suspect.

Places Open to the Public

Whether it is a back yard, front porch or open field, if the area is generally viewed as open to entry by, or plain view of, the public no expectation of privacy would be considered.  For example, if police officers arrived at a residence for an emergency call and found evidence of illegal activity near a door they could reasonably be anticipated to enter or exit the warrant requirement would be inapplicable.

Plain View Exception

This is similar to public places in that it requires police to be

  • Lawfully permitted into the area in which the evidence is viewed
  • Evidence is immediately recognizable to the officer as evidence of a crime, contraband or otherwise subject to search and seizure
  • Evidence is discovered by the officer as a consequence of entry for purposes other than seeking the evidence found

Abandoned Property Exception

The classic example of this exception is garbage left at the curb for pick-up by the trash collector.  The criteria the court would consider in deciding whether to uphold this exception are:

  • A person with rightful control or authority knowingly relinquishes control of the property
  • There are no other owners of the property who are known or apparent at the time of the search

Community Caretaking Exception

This exception is often raised when the search does not fit under other exceptions.  It is couched in terms of protecting the public and a perfect example would be a police officer stopping and frisking a person in a high crime area because the person was pacing back and forth in the same area at night.  Other examples would be offices entering a residence without consent to check on the welfare of and potential victims within the residence following a report of domestic violence presently occurring within the residence.  The criteria for this exception are difficult to define and easily met by the police making it a perfect catch-all exception for the police to undertake a warrantless search.

Administrative Search

Typically, this involves a routine inspection such as a fire code or zoning inspection, welfare check or similar reason in which evidence is ultimately found in plain view.  The reasonableness of the search turns on the following:

  • There is a substantial government interest in the inspection
  • The inspection furthers the government interest
  • Inspections are conducted within a routine schedule and uniformity

Search Incident to Arrest

When a suspect is placed under arrest, police may conduct a search of the person and the area immediately surrounding the person into which they might reach for weapons or evidence.  This exception is couched in terms of officer safety and preventing the destruction of evidence.

Consent to Search

For a consent search to be upheld, police must show the consent:

  • To be given “knowingly”, meaning with knowledge of the right to refuse
  • By an individual with the authority to consent, such as the owner of a vehicle or home
  • Consent was requested only upon probable cause by police to suspect criminal activity

Suppression of Evidence from Warrantless Searches

If you believe the police are trying to use evidence they obtained illegally against you, call The Darling Law Firm now to protect your rights.  Our aggressive criminal defense lawyers will immediately file all possible suppression motions to destroy the prosecution’s case against you.

The Darling Law Firm will aggressively pursue every possible means to suppress evidence obtained in violation of your rights. 

Our criminal defense attorneys routinely represent clients in Morris, Bergen, Passaic, Hudson, Union, Sussex and Essex Counties. If you are visiting this webpage, call 973-584-6200 today to protect your rights or click here to e-mail us . If you are unable to visit our offices, for your convenience we are willing to schedule telephone conferences with payment by credit card or Paypal at or before the time of service.

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