The extinction of the warrantless motor vehicle search grew closer
last week after the decision of a New Jersey appellate court was
The case started when Officer Robert Ferreiro stopped Henderson for
driving a vehicle with excessively tinted windows. The officer then
discovered that Hendersn had a suspended driver’s license and was
unable to produce an insurance card, court papers say.
Ferriero, who described Henderson as “extremely nervous, sweating,”
also saw in plain view tobacco shavings that he believed were
consistent with the hollowed-out portions of a cigar that often are
used to roll marijuana cigarettes, according to court papers.
Ferriero did not detect the presence of marijuana but noticed that
gloves that were on the passenger seat when he first stopped
Henderson were gone when he returned after running a check on
Henderson and the vehicle.
Ferriero asked Henderson for permission to search the vehicle, but
Henderson refused. After issuing Henderson summonses, Ferriero
impounded the vehicle because he had “a reasonable suspicion to
request that there was some sort of criminal activity occurring,”
court papers say.
The officer then called for a K-9 unit to perform an exterior sniff
of the vehicle for the presence of drugs. The dog, which arrived an
hour after the initial stop, indicated a presence of drugs by
scratching on the passenger door. When Brown arrived at police
headquarters to pick up the vehicle, Ferriero asked him for
permission to conduct a search, which Brown granted.
The search, court papers said, found heroin inside the gloves that
Ferriero had originally seen in the vehicle. The gloves were found
in the glove compartment.
Henderson was indicted on a charge of possessing heroin with intent
to distribute. Henderson filed a motion to suppress the heroin
because there had been insufficient legal basis to impound the car
or call for a dog sniff.
Pursel agreed with Henderson and the Appellate Division agreed with
The appellate court ruled that the officer’s “hunch was correct, but
it was nothing more than a hunch” and was not sufficient to warrant
the search or a dog sniff. The court wrote that Ferreiro lacked
“reasonable and articulable suspicion” to ask for consent to search
the vehicle or impound it.