Submitted by New Jersey Criminal Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.
The issue here is whether the court should suppress any evidence obtained by illegal or improper police conduct. The general state of ‘exclusionary rule’ in the state and federal courts is that this ‘Rule’ is loosing favor. The question has become, regardless of the police conduct, there is a much greater factual analysis of whether improper conduct should be sanctioned and illegally obtained evidence allowed in at the time of trial. In State v. Johnson, 118 N.J. 639 (1990) the court ruled, “The issue is whether the discovery of evidence was obtained as a result of “exploitation of the unlawful stop and detention or are there facts which are significantly distinguishable from the constitutional violation such that the violation by the police of a defendants constitutional right was purged.” In other words the Exclusionary Rule will not apply when the connection between the unconstitutional police action and the evidence become so attenuated as to dissipate the taint from the unlawful contact. Under both federal and state constitutions and case law the critical determination is whether the authorities have obtained the evidence by means that are sufficiently independent to dissipate the taint of their own illegal conduct. Again this court goes to great links to evaluate numerous factors to determine what constitutes “attenuation of the taint.”
- temporal proximity between illegal conduct and challenged evidence,
- present of intervening circumstances, and
- flagrancy and the purpose of the police misconduct.
The court has recognize specific intervening circumstances that constitute a purge of the illegal taint to include,
- defendant’s flight from police,
- resisting arrest,
- defendant physical restraint,
- behavior of the defendant which would endanger the police in themselves by not submitting to authority.
Said differently, the tenants will not be rewarded by intervening conduct created to hide evidence.
Considering these factors the court evaluated the facts of this case and determined the defendant’s statement should be suppressed. The court ruled the defendant was initially confronted by the police with an unholstered weapon, secured for an extended period of time without any articulable suspicion that he was involved in criminal activity, was not free to leave the police car even though he was not handcuffed until he made his inculpatory statement, was detained for and excessive period of time without further question from the police and was not aware that the canine sniff was about to occur. Additionally during this time the defendant was calm and cooperative with the police and there was no intervening events undertaken by the defendant to exploit his right to be free of the tension. Hence, evidence from his statement should be suppressed. However, there is another blog to address the subsequent search of the vehicle in our next blog.
Jeffrey S. Hark, Esq.