KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
POLICE GENERALLY CANNOT SEARCH YOUR CAR WITHOUT A SEARCH WARRANT; HOWEVER ITEMS PROPERLY OBSERVED IN “PLAIN VIEW” CAN BE SEIZED BY POLICE.
Law enforcement officers are required to obtain search warrants before they search anything including homes, cars, or businesses. There are exceptions to that rule. One of the exceptions to the warrant requirement is the “Plain View” doctrine. The essence of that doctrine is that for the “Plain View” exception to apply, an officer must first be lawfully in the viewing area. Then, the item of evidence in question (such as a gun, drugs, or any other pertinent evidence) must immediately appear to be an item of contraband or evidence of illegal activity.
The New Jersey Supreme Court recently revisited the “Plain View” exception again in STATE V. COOPER, 214 N.J. 176,2013 N.J. LEXIS 760 (N.J. 2013). In that case, police searched the trunk of a car without a warrant. The police did not have consent to search the trunk, nor did any other exception to the warrant requirement exist to justify that search. Upon opening the trunk, police observed a gun, clothing, and proceeds of a robbery. Ultimately the Court ruled that the initial opening of the trunk was an illegal search because the police did not have a warrant, and they did not have consent to open the trunk. Therefore, even though the evidence was within view once the trunk was opened, the police were not lawfully in the viewing area (i.e. they would not have been able to see the evidence had they not unlawfully opened the trunk of the car in the first place).
If you are facing criminal charges for possession of a controlled dangerous substance, possession of a firearm, or possession of any other evidence that law enforcement intends to use to prosecute you, you should contact me immediately. I have taught the subject of search and seizure law to law enforcement for nearly a decade. I understand your rights and can guide you through your legal entanglements.
If you need assistance, please do not hesitate to contact attorney Michael Mormando, Esquire, at the law firm of Attorneys Hartman, Chartered, at 856-235-0220.