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Police and Law Enforcement Home  >  The Column  >  Searches Down, Coffee Up


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Searches Down,
Coffee Up
Police and Law Enforcement News
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
11: 07 a.m.

Data released by the New Jersey State Police last month revealed a sharp decrease in vehicle searches by troopers.  According to the Office of Law Enforcement Professional Standards of the State Police, "The overall number of searches declined dramatically."


The reason given for the decline was no surprise either.  The reason given was the New Jersey State Supreme Court.

If there were a master, statewide statistical tracking system, the trend of reduced searches would carry over to just about every agency in every county as would the trend of reduced seizures of contraband.

This is because the New Jersey Supreme Court has rendered our proactive street officers all but impotent. 

In New Jersey we've always lived by a search and seizure body of law much more stringent than what exists federally or in other states.  But the changes in the past forty-eight months have been crippling.

In 2006 the court held in State vs. Eckel that incident-to-arrest searches of vehicles would no longer be automatically permitted.  Such searches could only be done in rare cases according to the following rationale given by the court:

... where a defendant has been arrested but has not been removed and secured, the court will be required to determine, on a case-by-case basis whether he or she was in a position to compromise police safety or to carry out the destruction of evidence, thus justifying resort to the search incident to arrest exception.

In essence, the incident-to-arrest search of a motor vehicle - one of the most successful tools in the law enforcement arsenal - has been banished.  If you would like to somehow fit a search into the parameters given above, we recommend that you have an assistant prosecutor in the passenger seat.

One can only imagine the amount of weapons, drugs, stolen property, and other contraband that has already gone undetected since this decision was rendered.  This ruling was a devastating blow to New Jersey law enforcement. 

But it would get worse.

The 2009 case State v. Pena-Flores will be as significant in New Jersey law as Weeks, Mapp, Miranda, and Terry are on the national level.  Pena-Flores was, of course, the case where the court "reaffirmed and expanded upon the requirement of a showing of exigent circumstances in order to uphold a warrantless search under the automobile exception to the warrant requirement." 

Bottom line, probable cause would no longer be enough to justify a warrantless search of a motor vehicle.  A search warrant would now be the requirement unless exigent circumstances could be demonstrated.  The court held:

Thus, in accordance with "our unwavering precedent [], the warrantless search of an automobile in New Jersey is permissible where (1) the stop is unexpected; (2) the police have probable cause to believe that the vehicle contains contraband or evidence of a crime; and (3) exigent circumstances exist under which it is impracticable to obtain a warrant.

Squeezing a search in under the "exigent circumstances under which it is impracticable to obtain a warrant" provision is another Hail Mary pass.

So now, an officer on a motor vehicle stop who smells burnt marijuana may no longer - absent exigent circumstances - conduct a probable cause search of the car. 

Instead, he or she must impound the car, go back to the station, type up an affidavit, type up a search warrant, find an assistant prosecutor, have the assistant prosecutor review the affidavit and search warrant, make the necessary changes to the paperwork and resubmit, find a judge, and get the warrant signed. 

Let's not forget that certain counties have diva judges who are not - under any circumstances - to be woken during evening hours.

For a skilled member of a county narcotics strike team this process would take - at a minimum -  four hours.  For a street cop not familiar with search warrant preparation (99.99% of officers), this will take an entire shift, maybe longer.

And for what?  Because you smelled recently smoked marijuana in a car and a search may land you a roach or a dime bag?  Who has that kind of time?  What department is so well staffed that they can deal with such nonsense?

What an insane waste of time.  What a truly insane waste of time.

As the cops who patrol New Jersey's streets, we stand bewildered.  We're bewildered because besides being cops, we're also residents and homeowners and taxpayers.  We care about our streets and neighborhoods as much as anyone else, and we expect the police in our towns to keep us and our families safe.

As the scourge of gangs begins taking hold in our cities and now our suburbs, as crime numbers begin creeping up, and as the number of officers continues to drop through layoffs and attrition, we are being given more idiotic hoops to jump through in order to enforce the law we are mandated to uphold. 

It is discouraging, it is appalling, and it is wrong.

What do you think?  Use the text box below to share your thoughts.
Police and Law Enforcement News
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
11: 07 a.m.


Comments Closed

Your Comments

It appears it is no longer about liberal judges. Yes, they put into action these bad ideas because, no person in their right mind would think it o.k. to allow criminals free reign of our streets. Liberals only would allow this! Unfortunately, the arm of the drug cartels holds deep in this state. How do you protect the load of product? You either have the cops and politicians provide security for the load, or you prevent the cops from seizing the load! Who got paid off and when? That much money getting across the boarded doesn't go unused. Did you ever wonder why cartel members are that far north? Business is probably that good! It appears the generation in charge of our country is not very good and have proven time and time again, THEY WILL FOLD ON A DIME. GOD BLESS AMERICA, if there is anything left. Someone is going to have to suck it up and defend America. What are you made of?  MY COUNTRY IS OF THEE...

A society that makes enemies of the police had better learn to make friends with its criminals. Brothers and Sisters its time to shut it down. You have no support from your community, your administration, your judges and AP's. Its open season on LEO's. They take away our ability to do our job, they want our pension, and they want to make us work for nothing. And for what? At what cost should we go out there and be proactive? Who is going to stand behind us? NOBODY!!! Shut it down brothers and sisters. All we have is each other and our families. Pena-Flores + Supression hearing + The follow-up Federal civil rights violation lawsuit = your career. DON'T LET THEM TAKE IT. Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy. 

After 20 years plus of making good collars for CDS. Its done Thanks to the liberal Supreme Court of NJ. So people wonder why there is drugs in our state. And then our bosses wonder why there is no CDS arrests. Well, who is going to impound a vehicle, wake up a detective, an assist prosecutor, type an affidavit for a superior court judge all for an odor of burnt marijuana. I have let more people go for that compared to handcuffing the occupants. Sad state of affairs in NJ. Its time to move out of this liberal state.

With 4 years left until I retire and a 2 year old at home, it has just added one more to the ever-growing list of reasons to move away from NJ.

I know the new rulings stink, but keep on nailing the bad guys.   Just articulate the heck out of each situation to demonstrate the exigent circumstances.  I spell out the lack of manpower to properly secure the vehicle, safeguard it, detain the occupants, etc and how this will eliminate the total officers on my shift (Midnights), thus endangering the entire population; therefore I instruct my officers to carry on with the search and I stand behind them 1000%.  I also articulate a dated memo from the Criminal Assignment Judge (Lawson of Monmouth County) that says unless for a Homicide, we cannot "bother" a Superior Court Judge (who gets $164,000 a year) to get a warrant signed.  I put this on the very top of the list of exigency reasons.  And I will vigorously elicit the assistance of various victim's and anti-drug/anti-gang groups, along with the PBA and FOP (Statewide and Nationwide) to appeal any suppression-dismissals based on what would be a valid search pre-Pena-Flores/et al.  When the Judges know that their "Diva" order not to bother them will be made VERY PUBLIC, I doubt they will stand by their own "order" to not be bothered.

Again, I know it stinks, but don't let the bad guys win-keep on going after the bad guys; I for one will NOT let such scum hide behind these ultra-Liberal and ultra-WRONG legal decisions.

At the end of the day, we're cops, we know right and wrong.  As far as most Judges, I have to ask whose side are they on.

-20 veteran

I think it is BS to have to jump through all these hoops. You walk up to a car you smell the odor, hello wrong doing has been done. So instead of being able to do your job and take the bad guys off the streets this great state has now showed that the criminals have more rights then us cops. BS it is. I have a Drug dog at least that still works correctly in this state.

Seems to me the High Courts are maybe just HIGH on themselves.  We in NJ have the most red tape to fight thru when it comes to Law Enforcement.  That's why almost any state would gladly take a transfer of a Jersey Cop.  We can paint by numbers the with the best of them, and still do our jobs.  I can't believe that the Criminals have more rights to break the laws then we have to enforce the laws.   Why make the entire state suffer for the minority of the times that cops may be wrong.  Now it seems the cops are ALWAYS wrong when making arrests and the criminals are ALWAYS right to break the laws.  I am so confused,  how about some stupid ass defense attorney or judge set me straight why protect the guilty at the risk of votes ??  Opps... I just made this political !  My BAD !!!   -  Bilbo Baggins  !

Don't forget that in my county they won't give a search warrant for a DP offense.  So if all you have is an odor of burnt marijuana and no consent your hands are tied and they walk free.  Idiocy at its finest.

Liberalism at its best! Great article, this should be sent to every paper. Its okay the feel upset, I'm beyond that now and over it, they (meaning the liberals) are more than likely getting paid off, there simply is another other valid explanation for it. Its as simple as 2+2.  Prior to these last few rulings (Eckel, Pina-Flores, etc.) what about our whole interior compartment. excluding trunk (lol) concept. Its absurd and ridiculous! Corrupt Judges and Politicians!

The Supreme Court of NJ is doing a heck of a job. The new governor of NJ is removing the wrong judges from the bench. He is preventing the medical marijuana from being used for patients who need it but allowing people to drive under the influence. Go figure ! What a state, NJ is in.

Great job putting all the nonsense on paper.  It is absolutely disgusting how these J/O judges sided with the criminal once again.  It's going to take something extreme (like one of their family members murdered and the evidence weapon kept in trunk of a car that we can stop but not search) to ever tip the scale back in our favor. 

I am an aggressive patrol officer who, along with others, has had my hands tied for retrieving narcotics and stolen property out of a vehicle. Why doesn't Gov. Christie with his "Wisdom", take this to the N.J. State Supreme Court so police officers can still do there job trying to make the streets safer.

One more reason to leave the state in a few years.

The stupidity of our "highly" educated NJ Supreme Court never ceases to amaze me.

I concur with the above article. But talking and writing about it, instead of doing something is just a waste of time.........

Snippet from News12:

(07/12/10) CENTRAL ISLIP - Authorities today accused two brothers and their cousin of trafficking guns from Florida to Long Island. Police say Santos and Carlos Garcia, and their cousin, Romel Garcia, sold illegal guns to the notorious street gang MS-13 from a bodega in Central Islip.

You can bet your bippy they drove through NJ to get to Long Island from Florida...
Yep good move Supreme Court tie the troopers hands...anyone with nothing to hide won't object to a vehicle search....

The State Supreme Court must be the "diva judges" written about. They live behind a 12 ft high, ornate fence. They cannot see the crimes that are being committed through their shrubs and tinted windows of their cars. The real crime hear is they still keep their jobs and beat cops are getting laid off!

The police officers of this state need to try and get a warrant at 3 AM every night. This ruling would be overturned quick by ruining their beauty sleep.

I can't wait to retire and smoke pot on my front porch, sitting in my rocker.  By then, it will be legal, its practically legal in your car now!  Who is going to spend hours getting a search warrant for personal use pot??

NJLawman, So very well written you hit the nail on the head.

Agreed, send this to all the papers see if anyone has the guts to print it!

So... Any chance the courts will actually grow a pair of balls in this state? I'm tired of these old men with limp wrists judging what is right for the people.

Just whose rights are they protecting by this retarded ruling anyway? Oh yea I forgot, the Bloods aren't a violent, gun wielding gang, they're a peaceful gathering of shit heads.

What I find painfully ironic is that the liberals are always out to "protect our rights", especially Constitutional rights and even more specifically those in the Bill of Rights. That is of course with the exception of the Second Amendment because guns are dangerous, not those criminals you have made it almost impossible for us to arrest and convict, but those dirty guns...what a shame. I have few enough years on I might just leave this state before they legislate the hours in which I'm allowed to make a motor vehicle stop

This is part of the reason that after 6 years as a cop in NJ, I moved to Texas. It's nice to be able to actually do your job as well as have support from the courts and citizens.

Good article. Any wonder why NJ has 5 or more cities in the top 20 most dangerous cities in the country. This is part of the answer to that. You reap what you sow. More and more, drugs are invading suburban towns, poisoning the children, our future. When the scum of the earth finally arrive on the doorsteps and sidewalks of these ultra liberal justices we have, maybe just maybe we will get laws to protect the good citizens of this state. By the time that haopens though there wont be any good citizens left. Good Job NJ Justices keep crusading for the criminals.

We chose this profession to help people and root out the scum, and at the same time feed our families and back our fellow officers.  Unfortunately we are now looked at as the scum and the judiciary, legislature, and towns don't want us to help either. 

In addition, true blue is gone, only true to the chief and admin prevails.  To do a good, honest, and proactive job has disappeared.  To be a mope, brown nosing, numbers producer is now what is expected.  Just write the ticket and move on to write another.  Don't back your fellow officer it will get you in hot water, and please, please don't expect to be paid well, get benefits, or have job security anymore.  This is not what I signed up for.  That is all she wrote.  This profession is no longer an admirable one .

I hope that at the least this governor of ours appoints conservative judges who overrule these mentally ill liberal judges. I seriously think that liberalism is a form on mental illness. As a tax payer and resident of the state I am completely DISGUSTED knowing that these criminals operate in this state with no fear of being busted because the judges are cowards and victimize the good people.

Something has to be done to change this ruling.  It has taken away our ability to do our jobs properly.  It is probably the worst ruling every in NJ and needs to be changed. 

Article should be sent to all major newspapers in New Jersey!

The worse part is that they are also looking to outlaw the only weapon that we still have  which is consent searches. Its a shame!!

Finally someone says what we are all feeling ... It's easier to be a criminal in NJ then an Officer

The citizens get the enforcement they deserve. When voting you have to take into account the kind of judges that will be appointed by the candidates. It was never meant to be so, but the real power is in the judiciary.

Great article!  Its a crying shame the liberal judges we have in this State and  how the tides are turning favoring criminals and NOT the law biding citizens...

Signed Coffee's up!

This article is so on the mark.

This article is right on point. Being a narcotics detective in NJ, I can tell you from experience less and less is getting done on the streets because of these ridiculous rulings by the courts. The cops are completely handcuffed.

Very well written. Couldn't of said it better myself. NJ is ridiculous and is only getting worse. Your right, what's the point of a search warrant?

Let me preface this by saying I am not in law enforcement, although I do have friends who are. This is ridiculous. Why aren't police allowed to do their jobs anymore?

Couldn't have been written better.

Nothing like handcuffing cops that are trying to ensure the safety of the public. Well it's not all bad news, at least they put in place a system to quickly and easily get telephonic warrants...

Oh wait...

Very well said.

NJ is to liberal, the minute I retire I am moving out...

Great article, couldn't be more on the money.

The NJ courts have always been tough on searches, but these cases are just too much.  If I called a sergeant in my city to get a search warrant for a car I would be laughed off the department.


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