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NJ Criminal Conviction Overturned Because Police Dispatcher Gives Wrong Information

02
Jun
2010

by in Criminal Defense

State v. Germaine A. Handy, ? N.J. Super. ?, 2010 N.J. Super. LEXIS 53 (April 12, 2010) – Conviction reversed, suppression ordered. “The appeal requires us to determine whether evidence found during the search incident to Handy’s arrest should have been suppressed because the dispatcher who incorrectly informed the arresting officer that there was an outstanding arrest warrant acted unreasonably under the circumstances, even though the conduct of the arresting officer himself was reasonable….

Rather than a past clerical error, such as neglecting to remove a no-longer valid warrant, the police dispatcher in this case inaccurately reported to the police officer in the field that there was an active warrant for Handy when, in fact, there were significant discrepancies in the spelling of the first name and the date of birth that were not reported at the same time, thereby causing the arrest of the wrong person. Had the police dispatcher reported the discrepancies at the same time as the existence of the warrant, Drogo would have attempted to verify that the warrant was for Handy before, rather than after, the arrest….

The deterrent value of applying the exclusionary rule in this case is, in our view, quite significant…. The police dispatcher is the crucial link between the officer in the field and police headquarters. The officer depends on receiving the correct information from the dispatcher, information such as whether there is or is not an outstanding arrest warrant for the person with whom the officer is then face to face….

In our view, failure to extend the requirement of reasonable conduct to the police dispatcher under the circumstances of this case would have considerable potential to ‘dilute’ the protections against unreasonable search and seizure guaranteed by the New Jersey Constitution and, we believe, the Fourth Amendment.”

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