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State v. Carjaval – NJ Supreme Court
The police approached the defendant when he got off a bus from Miami to New Jersey to question him about where he was going, based on information from a confidential informant.
The defendant denied having brought any luggage with him from Miami and then police then asked everyone else on the bus to verify ownership of their luggage by using the claim ticket they had been given when they checked their luggage. After the other passengers verified their luggage one duffel bag remained, which the defendant denied ownership or knowledge of. Based on the fact that the bag appeared to be abandoned, the police searched the bag and found heroin pellets and a health card with the defendant’s name on it.
The NJ Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s finding that the defendant did not have standing to challenge the warrantless search of the bag because he had denied having any possessory or ownership interest in the bag and the police had attempted to find other potential owners among those on the bus. The Court found that he voluntarily and knowingly relinquished any rights he had to the bag and the facts did not suggest that the police were being coercive or overbearing. Based on the totality of the circumstances, the defendant acted consistent with someone who had no ownership interest in the bag.
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