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NJ Defendant Can’t Challenge Search


by in Civil Appeals, Criminal Appeals

State v. Pablo Carvajal, ? N.J. ?, 2010 N.J. LEXIS ? (June 2, 2010) – Conviction and denial of suppression affirmed.

“In State v. Johnson, 193 N.J. 528, 548-49 (2008), we held that a criminal defendant has no standing to challenge the search or seizure of ‘abandoned’ property. In this appeal, we apply and adapt the standards enunciated in Johnson to the case of an unclaimed duffel bag left on a bus…. Defendant knowingly and voluntarily disclaimed any ownership or possessory interest in the bag in response to police questioning, and every other passenger on the bus denied owning the bag…. Unlike in Johnson, defendant in this case was not holding the bag. From the objective viewpoint of the police, defendant, arguably, had no apparent control or ownership interest in the unclaimed duffel bag on the bus. The bag did not have an exterior tag indicating that defendant had a possessory interest. Moreover, defendant did not have a claim ticket for the bag and, in response to police questioning, he denied traveling with any luggage or even having a change of clothing…. We reject defendant’s argument that a person cannot knowingly and voluntarily relinquish a possessory or ownership interest in a piece of luggage that may incriminate him in response to non-coercive police questioning. If we accepted defendant’s position, the methodic questioning by the police of the bus passengers to determine who owned the unclaimed bag would be an effort in futility because anyone who answered ‘no’ to owning luggage could later step forward and assert standing to challenge the warrantless search. That would mean that property could never be considered abandoned under circumstances such as here; in each case the police would have to secure a warrant…. Because the State proved that the duffel bag was abandoned property, defendant had no standing to challenge the warrantless search.”






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