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NJ Police Search of Car Trunk Ruled Illegal


by in Juvenile Defense

State v. Antuan J. Daniels, unpublished opinion, App. Div. Docket No. A-3841-07T4 (December 23, 2010) – Conviction reversed, suppression ordered.

“We first conclude that the intrusion [into defendant’s trunk after the stop of the automobile] was not justified under the search incident to arrest exception…. [Officer] Henderson’s testimony establishes that by the time the vehicle was searched, both defendant and Goines had been placed under arrest, handcuffed, and either removed from the scene or secured within a squad car. Therefore, there are no grounds to support a search incident to arrest…. The State further asserts that the intrusion into the trunk was justified under the ‘automobile exception.’… [N]o exigency existed to justify the warrantless search of the vehicle’s trunk. Henderson testified that the stop occurred in a well-lit parking lot, and neither he nor Maldonado indicated the presence of any additional civilians. Moreover, the officers at the scene outnumbered defendant and Goines two-to-one, and according to Henderson, the suspects did nothing to ‘arouse additional suspicions.’ Finally, defendant and Goines had already been placed under arrest and handcuffed when the trunk was searched, and once the guns in the backseat were seized, all foreseeable threats to the police had been eliminated. There was simply no urgent, immediate need for the officers to conduct a full search of the automobile.”






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