New Jersey Criminal Lawyer – Appellate Opinions – State v. Mai

Part VI. Automobile Searches

State v. Mai, 202 N.J. 12 (2010)

We see no reason to depart from the elegant reasoning that undergirds this settled principle in making the parallel determination of whether a police officer has the authority to open a vehicle door as part of issuing an order to exit the vehicle. In the realm of defining reasonable searches and seizures, no meaningful or relevant difference exists between the grant of authority to order an occupant of a vehicle to exit the vehicle and the authority to open the door as part of issuing that lawful order. Plain logic demands that the principles that govern whether a passenger of a vehicle lawfully can be ordered out of the vehicle must apply with equal force to whether a police officer is entitled, as a corollary and reasonable safety measure, to open the door as part of issuing a proper order to exit.

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