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NJ Car Search Was Illegal, Says App Div


by in Criminal Appeals, Criminal Defense

State v. Brian Wilk, unpublished opinion, App. Div. Docket No. A-0628-09T4 (October 20, 2010) – Conviction reversed, suppression ordered. “The first two prongs of the automobile exception are present. Garcia stopped defendant unexpectedly and he had probable cause to believe that defendant’s car contained contraband. Garcia had a well-grounded suspicion that heroin was in the car because defendant produced a torn cigarette filter…. We conclude, however, that the third prong was not met because exigent circumstances that precluded obtaining a warrant were not present. Neither the officers’ safety nor the preservation of evidence were in jeopardy, and it was not impractical to obtain a warrant prior to searching defendant’s car…. Garcia stopped defendant’s car on Friday afternoon around 12:15 p.m. Defendant was the sole occupant; the surrounding area was part business and residential; the stop was not in a high crime area; traffic was light and not obstructed by defendant’s car; back-up arrived immediately; defendant cooperated; and he was not arrested until after the search…. Moreover, police had control of the car and never left it unguarded. Katsigiannis remained with the car when Garcia took defendant to police headquarters because the car had been impounded. Impounding the car obviated any concern for the destruction of any potential evidence. Any delay in obtaining a search warrant would not have placed the officers’ safety in jeopardy or compromised the integrity of the evidence.”






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