Another Opinion

State v. Dunlap, 185 N.J. 543 (2006)


In addition, we reject the State’s argument that “it would have been unduly burdensome and unreasonably restrictive to require the police to post a guard and repair to the courthouse for a warrant,” There were at least ten officers present on the evening in question and even assuming that some were needed for other duties in connection with defendant’s arrest and the on-going investigation, the State did not establish that an insufficient number **1283 would have been left to guard the car. To say that the late hour made access to a judge difficult or unpracticable, is to ignore the procedures in place for emergent duty judges in every vicinage and the existence, since 1984, of the telephonic warrant procedure. R. 3:5-3(b). Indeed, it is not without significance that the investigators here had time to call the prosecutor’s office at about 10:00 pm and obtain verbal authorization for the consensual recording of defendant’s conversation with Tiaa.


One final note. Nothing in this opinion should be viewed as a retrenchment from the well-established principles governing the automobile exception to the warrant requirement. The standards remain the same: probable cause and exigent circumstances, each of which to be determined on a case-by-case basis. Here, the unique facts, particularly the presence of ten officers, fully justified the Appellate Division’s conclusion that exigency was absent. Different facts, such as a roadside stop effectuated by only one or two officers, would likely have changed the calculus. Police safety and the preservation of evidence remain the preeminent determinants of exigency.

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