Anonymous Tips and Warrant-less Search | New Jersey Criminal Law

Submitted by New Jersey Criminal Defense Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark

14-2-3345 State v. Hunter, N.J. Super. App. Div. (per curiam) (10 pp.) Defendant appealed the denial of his motion to suppress evidence seized during a motor vehicle stop. Police received an anonymous call stating that a man was waiving a handgun in front of bystanders while calling “Where is he?”. Officers noticed a vehicle pull toward them, with the driver matching the description from the anonymous call, and initiated a traffic stop. When the driver, later identified as defendant, got out of the vehicle, officers ordered him to get on the ground. Through the open vehicle door, officers observed a handgun and separate fully-loaded magazine, matching the description provided by the anonymous caller. After receiving Miranda warnings, defendant told officers that he carried the gun for protection from threatening gang members, and that the vehicle belonged to his girlfriend. Defendant’s girlfriend later gave consent to search the vehicle, which turned up a bag containing cocaine. Before trial, defendant moved to suppress evidence collected from the vehicle, arguing that officers did not have reasonable suspicion to conduct a motor vehicle stop. The trial court denied the motion, noting that officers could observe defendant, who matched the description provided by the anonymous call, and who was located a block and a half away from where the incident in the call occurred. On appeal, defendant reiterated his argument supporting his suppression motion. The court affirmed the trial court’s decision and reasoning, concurring that observing defendant, who matched the description provided by the anonymous caller, only a block and a half away from the incident that prompted the call gave officers sufficient reasonable suspicion to initiate an investigatory stop.

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