In this case recently decided on appeal, a NJ criminal defense appeal lawyer successfully argued that the police’s search and seizure of evidence was illegal. The court found that the State could not establish that the police were acting under the community caretaking or plain view exceptions.
State v. Andre Scott, unpublished opinion, App. Div. Docket No. A-1787-07T4 (November 17, 2009) – Conviction reversed, suppression ordered. “The State justifies the warrantless entry of the police officers into the first-floor apartment as a part of their community caretaking function.
However, … , the motion judge found that the police’s community caretaking function arose only after they observed the open door to the first floor apartment — an observation necessarily made from the building’s hallway, since the judge found that the building’s owner, Martin, was unable to see the doorway from her vantage point at the entrance to the residence.
Nothing in the record suggests that the police had any authorization to enter the hallway, either from Martin or from a first-floor resident. Their presence in that hallway thus violated the Fourth Amendment….[T]he State has failed to meet its burden of proving that it was reasonably fulfilling its community caretaking function when it entered, first, the building owned by Martin, second, the first-floor apartment in that building and, third, the bedroom occupied by defendant and Taylor.
We further conclude that because the police were not lawfully on the premises, their invocation of the plain view exception to the warrant requirement as justification for seizure of the drugs found on the bedroom nightstand fails.” (Michael Noriega, Designated Counsel)